The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight Dec. 13 and 14, and you may be able to see a great show on either side of those dates.
If you liked the Perseid meteor shower 2012 in August, you should love this. 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? Look at some amazing photos of the Geminids.
"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 Dec. 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.
The Geminid meteors 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:
Most important: a dark sky. So, if you care to join thousands across the nation in viewing the shower, park yourself at a good viewing spot.
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.
In the Kirkland and Puget Sound region, the weather will be iffy for viewing on Thursday, Dec. 13, according to National Weather Service forecasts. The Thursday night forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of precipitation, but skies should be partly cloudy Friday with just a 50 percent chance of rain Friday night.
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.
Patch reporter Todd Richissin contributed to this report.