The spectacular sight of the annual Geminids meteor shower is set to get into full swing over the next 10 days.
The highlight of the meteor calendar, the Geminids have been appearing since Friday, December 4 and are predicted to reach their peak on Sunday December 13 and Monday December 14, until they leave our skies for another year on Thursday December 17.
What are they?
The spectacular meteor shower occurs every December as Earth passes through the orbit of an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon.
This is a three-mile-wide object discovered in 1983 by two British scientists examining Nasa satellite images.
While it was initially classified as an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon has as an eccentric orbit that looks more like that of a comet than an asteroid and brings it well inside the orbit of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, every 1.4 years. Nasa itself describes it as a "rock comet".
The Geminid meteor shower itself was first noted in the 1860s.
Over time, it has become more intense, with up to 20 comets per hour reported in the 1920s, rising to 50 in the 1930s, 60 in the 1940s and 80 in the 1970s.
The meteors travel at around 22 miles per second and burn up about 24 miles above the Earth.
How can you see them?
Just grab a coat and hat, switch the lights off and head outside - no special equipment is required to see the Geminids and on a dark, cloudless sky you may be able to spot two meteors a minute – that’s up to 120 meteors per hour.
You can the Geminids anywhere in the world but to catch the shower at its best and most intense across the UK, head out at 2am and find a good spot away from light pollution.
It is advised you allow up to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark to allow you to look up at the night sky for as long as possible.
Why are the Geminids so special?
Reckoned to be one of the best and most reliable meteor showers, the Geminids are unusual because they can shine in different colours as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Mostly glowing white, they may also appear yellow, blue, green or red.
They are also not shed by a classic icy comet but a body that shares characteristics of both comets and asteroids.
Traditionally asteroids are made of rock and comets mostly of ice.
Have you seen the Geminids this year? Let us know in the Comments section below.