The Geminids, so called because they appear to emerge from the Gemini constellation, are specks of debris from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid. Astronomers have yet to figure out why the asteroid has a stream of dust, something usually associated with comets.
Astronomers said that while people will be able to see only a few meteors here and there initially, the frequency of visible meteors will increase with time. They warn that a bright waxing moon may make it difficult to spot the meteors, but since the Geminids tend to be white and bright people should be able to spot them.
According to Deborah Byrd, editor in chief of EarthSky.org, the best time to view the shower will be at 2 a.m. Friday, around the time when the moon starts to set. Standing in the shadow of a building to block the moon's light can also help, she said.
The Geminids are one of the best meteor showers to view from Earth, with up to 50 meteors falling every hour. The dust trail from 3200 Phaethon is closest to the Earth from Dec. 4 to Dec. 17. The portion of the trail the Earth will be going through is densest from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14.