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There are two annual meteor showers of note that take place in December, the Geminids and the Ursids. By far the most spectacular of the pair is the Geminids, known also as the "Winter Fireworks", with a peak zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of over 100 meteors per hour. Much less dramatic, but well worth a look, are the Ursids with up to 10 meteors per hour. For added spice the Ursids have shown on several occasions bursts of activity over the last 60 years.

Geminids Radiant and Star Chart

Geminids Radiant and Star Chart - pdf format

Geminids

The Geminids are slow moving meteors, often bright and unusual in that the source object is an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon. Together with the Quadrantids, they are the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet. The Geminids usually peak on the 14th December, so sometime after midnight on the nights of the 13/14th and 14/15th will the best views occur.

Geminids Data Table

Meteor shower nameGeminids
Radiant ConstellationGemini
Dates7th December -> 17th December
Peak Date14th December
RA (J2000)7hr 28m
DEC (J2000)+33d
Speed (km/s)35
ZHR 120
Parent3200 Phaethon (asteroid)

At the moment, the shower appears to be intensifying each year with recent shower activity peaking at over 120 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, the Moon will upset this year's event since it is only 4 days past full and located not far away from the radiant, which lies near the star Castor in Gemini.

Ursids Radiant and Star Chart

Ursids Radiant and Star Chart - pdf format

Ursids

Later in December, on the night of 22nd/23rd is the peak of the Ursids meteors. The radiant for the Ursids meteors, which are sourced by periodic comet 8P/Tuttle, is the far northern constellation of Ursa Minor, "The Little Dipper". Despite the ZHR of the Ursids been far lower than the Geminids at least the Moon will be out of the way and with the added bonus of a potential burst in activity they are well worth a look.

Ursids Data Table

Meteor shower nameUrsids
Radiant ConstellationUrsa Minor
Dates17th December -> 26th December
Peak Date22nd December
RA (J2000)14hr 28m
DEC (J2000)+76d
Speed (km/s)33
ZHR 10
Parent8P/Tuttle (comet)