Every December, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon showers the Earth with a grand meteor shower, and stargazers have determined the night of Dec 13 is the peak of the event. The best time is after midnight, but there is a waning three-quarters moon in the sky that will obstruct some of the dimmer meteors.

Meteors will be plentiful in the midnight hour, but will still be visible around 9 or 10, Amy Sayle of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill told the stargazing news site StarNews Online.

Geminids meteors have been watched by people for 500 years, and it's the best meteor shower of the year next to the Persieids in mid-August. One reason the Geminids are so grand is because of their frequency, but they are also quite colorful. With just the right conditions, about one in four meteors will appear to be yellow. Additionally, red, green and blue meteors could appear. The meteors radiate from the constellation Gemini, that rises in the east in mid-evening and is high overhead by 2 a.m. Meteors, however, may be seen all over the sky. Geminid meteors will still be visible, though in fewer numbers, through Saturday.

For best viewing, find some open sky far away from street and highway lights. Bring your blankets and winter gear, lie on the ground and stare up at the sky. Next year, conditions for the Perseids and the Geminids should be much better.

In a meteor shower, Earth crosses paths with a comet and smashes straight through a broad swath of particles shed along its orbit. The Geminids come from an asteroid, but it's actually an extinct comet, burned up by the Sun so many times it's run out of gas. The particles that Phaethon shot into space are still in orbit around the sun, and on every Earth pass, we smack right into them.