A Geminid meteor streaks above one of the peaks of the Seven Sisters rock formation early December 14, 2010 in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
Photographer: (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Copyright Getty Images
CLEVELAND - Put down that wrapping paper or iPad or cell phone for just a few minutes Thursday night and head outside.
The night sky will be quite active with shooting stars and space stations.
The show begins just after sunset with the last good viewing this year of the International Space Station (ISS). At 6:35 p.m. EST, the ISS comes into view, rising in the west southwest sky. By 6:38 p.m., it reaches its zenith above at 63 degrees in the north-northwest sky.
Just a couple of minutes later the space craft will disappear into Earth's shadow in the north-northeastern sky. Watch for the color change from white to orange to red, near Cassiopeia.
After that, the big show begins with the arrival of the Geminid Meteor Shower. This is one of the best shooting star displays of the year, with anywhere 50 or more potential streaks per hour all night long.
The display will peak between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Friday. Look to the north, northeast sky for the shooting stars.
Also working in our favor: the new moon. No moonshine Thursday night to brighten the skies.
You won't catch all of the bright streaks across the sky. The sky is a big dome surrounding us. But if you look long enough you should see at least a few Geminids tonight.
And in between the meteors, you can identify several of Earth's nearest neighbors.
- Mars: Mars is visible in the early evening near the southwestern horizon.
- Jupiter: Jupiter rises just after sunset and is bright above the eastern horizon soon thereafter.
- Venus: Venus continues to be visible in the pre-dawn southeastern sky .
- Saturn : Saturn is also visible in the early morning sky, rising about a half hour before Venus.
- Mercury: Mercury rises about 40 minutes after Venus.
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