Geminid Meteor Shower Set to Peak the Same Day As Total Solar Eclipse

The spectacular Geminid meteor shower is set to peak around the same time that a total solar eclipse briefly plunges parts of South America into darkness.

The Geminids—the "most dependable" and strongest annual meteor shower—are active between December 4 and 17, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

But the shower will reach peak activity on the night of December 13-14 wherever you are in the world, when rates can exceed one meteor per minute in dark, clear skies—although viewers in the southern hemisphere will see fewer shooting stars than their counterparts in the north.

On the night of the peak, the moon will be just one percent full, which should provide favorable viewing conditions.

Geminid meteors are often bright and intensely colored, and the shower tends to have good activity prior to midnight in the northern hemisphere. The meteors appear to originate—or radiate—from the constellation Gemini but they can be seen in any part of the sky.

The peak viewing time for Geminid activity is between 11 a.m. and 4 a.m. local time when the radiant—the point from which the meteors appear to originate—lies highest in the sky, according to the AMS.

For best viewing, try to find an area free of light pollution where skies are clear—this will depend on the weather where you are of course. The AMS recommends bringing a lounge chair with you so that you can look up at the sky for extended periods of time comfortably.

Another dramatic astronomical event will also take place around the time that the Geminid meteor shower peaks. On December 14, a relatively rare total solar eclipse will be visible across parts of Chile and Argentina. A partial phase of this event will also be visible across other parts of South America, southwest Africa, and Antarctica.

Total solar eclipses occur when the moon passes in front of the sun in the sky, completely covering the disk of our star when viewed from certain locations on Earth.

At the moment of totality—when the moon completely blocks the sun in these areas—viewers will only be able to see the outermost later of the sun, known as the corona.

The eclipse starts in one location and ends in another, lasting a total of more than five hours. The event is the only total solar eclipse of 2020, with the last one occurring on July 2, 2019—although there have been other types of solar eclipse this year.

On June 21, 2020, for example, a spectacular annular—or "ring of fire"—eclipse was visible across parts of Africa and Asia.

A total solar eclipse
The diamond ring effect is seen during a total solar eclipse from El Molle, Chile, on July 2, 2019. STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images