How to Watch This Week's Big Ass Perseid Meteor Shower

Thank you, tiny space rocks. Because of you, the entire population of planet  will be treated to one of ’s most spectacular celestial displays. The Geminids meteor is the most active of the annual meteor showers—by a long shot—and it’s just about to peak.

Tonight, the shower might produce as many as 120 meteors per hour (though back in 2011, the Geminids hit a peak of 198 meteors per hour). Compare this count to the second most abundant shower, the Perseids, which take place in late August and out at around 60 meteors per hour.

The annual December display is largely due to asteroid 3200 Phaethon, a three-mile wide chunk of rock that crosses the paths of all the inner rocky planets and closer to the sun than any other named asteroid. As ol’ 3200 heats up to the sun during its 1.5-year orbit, it expels materials and a trail much like a (indeed, it is sometimes to as a “rock ”). But that’s not the full story. Recent observations have shown that 3200 mostly expels dust as it is baked by the sun. And while this periodic “dusting” does help replenish the debris field, it’s not enough to account for all the Geminids’ activity.