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 Urbandale 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 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 from Earthsky.org:
The 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.
A good place to watch it would be Urbandale's Walker Johnston Park, which is nice and dark with plenty of open spaces. It's supposed to be cold -- a little below freezing, so dress warm.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.