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When, Where to Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The East Bay will be treated to the last natural light show of the year as the Geminid meteor shower graces the skies this week

It's not New Year's Eve yet, but people in the East Bay can start the celebrations early with a stunning light show nevertheless, thanks to the Geminid meteor shower beautifying the skies with shooting stars.

The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight Thursday Dec. 13 and Friday Dec. 14, and may make an appearance on either side of those dates.

Mount Diablo, of course, will be one of the best places to make a wish on a shooting star.

NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour.

Over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.

How spectacular is it? Just take a look at this video of the Geminid meteor shower. You can also look at some spectacular photos of the Geminids.

Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.

"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14."

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 a meteor shower, from Earthsky.org:

Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky.

Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on 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.

Where will you be watching the Germinds? Comment below, and if you manage to capture a photo, share it by clicking "upload."

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