If you're hoping to see what could be the year's most spectacular show in the sky, the Geminid meteor shower 2012, things are looking up.
The Geminids peaks overnight Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, and the weather forecast for Ankeny is for clear skies to begin the overnight, with only partly cloudy skies as morning approaches.
If you liked the Perseids meteor shower 2012 in August, you should love this show. Why? Because the Geminids is relatively young, NASA reports, and over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.
Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin -- its outer covering of ice -- after too many close encounters with the sun.
Tips for watching, from Earthsky.org:
Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky away from city lights. Try to catch what you can by going to Ankeny's Crestbruck Park.
Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from late evening tonight Thursday, Dec. 13 until dawn Friday, Dec. 14.
What to bring: You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.
Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time -- and hope.