There are two reliable, often spectacular meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere. The August Perseids, and the December Geminids. In case you are curious about the vaguely Battlestar Galactica names, meteor showers are named from the constellation from which the meteors seem to radiate. So tonight’s Geminids will seem to radiate from a point between the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, the twins, Castor and Pollux. But you don’t have to know where they are, or even look there, so catch the show.
Meteor showers are the easiest thing to observe, in part because you can just look anywhere, and in part because you need nothing but your eyes. Telescopes or binoculars won’t help, you need the wide field of view only your eyes can provide.
Want to see the Geminids tonight? Go outside. Anytime after 8 or 9 pm, though the show might peak after midnight. Look up. Lay on a lawn chair so you avoid neck strain. Watch, patiently. It shouldn’t be long before you see a meteor. Your backyard will work, if it is dark enough, or visit one of Geneva’s awesome pocket parks. Dress warm, meteor shower watching is not an active sport.
Meteorwatch.org is a good online resource, and you can even tweet meteors you see with the hashtag #meteorwatch
You can also listen to meteors with a radio, which makes a meteor shower one of the rare astronomical events accessible to the blind. This is a thoroughly boring-looking but useful intro to this observing method.
Put on your merino and down, crank up the wood stove so you can warm yourself when you come in, head on outside and look up.
Regular meteor showers like the Geminids are caused by the earth travelling through debris fields left behind by comets. Those are comet bits you see burning up in the atmosphere.