Heads up: the Geminid meteor shower will peak tonight

Here's how to watch one of the best meteor showers of the year.

One of the most spectacular shooting star displays of 2017 is happening in the sky tonight.

The Geminid meteor shower, which NASA calls the "best meteor shower of the year" will peak Wednesday night and into the early morning Thursday, with rates as high as one or two meteors per minute – up to 120 meteors per hour. 

Nearly 200 years old, the Geminids are a meteor shower that happens every December, Space.com says. They're often bright and intensely colored.

Though they appear to come from the constellation Gemini, they're actually the fragments of an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. Once a year, Earth runs into its dusty path, which intersects our planet's path through space.

If the conditions are right, viewers are in for a gorgeous display.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate for Minnesotans. According to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, it's going to be partly cloudy tonight, with low clouds likely sticking around through the day tomorrow.

Because the Geminids peaked around the same time as a supermoon, we didn't get a very good show in 2016

But National Geographic says the overnight hours during this year's peak will be dark and almost moonless, creating nearly ideal viewing conditions. 

How to watch for meteors

You don't need any special equipment to view the Geminids. 

The best time to begin watching is when Gemini rises above the eastern horizon, which will occur after 9 p.m. local time, NatGeo says.

The most spectacular views will come between roughly midnight and 4 a.m., Astronomy.com says, when the rate peaks and the area from which the meteors appear to radiate passes nearly overhead.

For best results, you should look slightly away from Gemini, so that you can see meteors with longer "tails" as they streak by, Space.com says. Staring directly at Gemini will just show you meteors that don't travel very far. 

Like with any meteor shower, it's best to get away from city lights for the ultimate viewing experience. You'll want to watch in a dark, open area. 

And the view will be better if you give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness, which can take as long as 20 minutes, EarthSky says. Check out more tips for watching the Geminids here.

If you don't want to brave the cold, you can watch a live stream of the Geminids here, beginning at 5 p.m. CT, courtesy of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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