Why the Geminids Are the Best Meteor Shower of 2017

A meteor shower as seen from Mexico Daniel Aguilar/Reuters

Wednesday's Geminids are the greatest meteor shower of the year.

No, really. We mean it.

The Geminid meteor shower, which will peak Wednesday night and be visible through early Thursday morning, is consistently one of the brightest shows of the year. Of the nine class I meteor showers that appear this year, the Geminids are arguably the greatest. The summer Perseids—which the American Meteor Society calls "the most popular meteor shower"—may be better known, and are arguably the closest contender to the Geminids. But hear us out.

These meteors are colorful and bright, and they're the only ones among the major meteor showers that show themselves strongly before midnight. And this year, they're predicted to yield about 120 meteors per hour.

Notably, the Geminids are also one of two meteor showers that come from what is believed to be an asteroid. Another reason why this shower is the best, at the very least for this year: 3200 Phaeton, the rocky object sometimes called an asteroid from which the Geminid meteors originate, will be even closer to Earth during the shower this year. According to Earthsky, this means even more meteors.

Year to year, meteor showers vary. Light pollution and moonlight can obscure the brightest light show. Last year, the normally spectacular Geminids were eclipsed by the light of the "supermoon." Watchers had to console themselves with the Ursids, the dimmer shower that comes later in December.

As all meteor showers, the Geminids are named after the constellation that appear to the eye as the source of the meteor shower. The Perseids are named for Perseus, the Leonids are named for Leo, and the Geminids are named for Gemini. A helpful tip from Sky and Telescope Magazine: you don't need to focus on, or even find, the radiant of a meteor shower in order to see them. As they write, "it's even possible to have your back to the constellation Gemini and see a Geminid meteor fly by."