Geminid meteor shower 2015: Watch it live, right here


The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight, and you can watch it live, right here.

Beginning at 5 p.m. PST, the astronomy website will begin live streaming images of the meteor shower from its five telescopes stationed throughout the world. 

This is a great way to observe the meteor shower if clouds are obscuring the night sky where you live, or you don't want to brave the chill winter weather.  

The Geminids are an annual meteor shower that light up the skies each December, when our planet passes through a ring of debris left in the wake of a 3-mile-wide asteroidal object known as 3200 Phaetheon.

During the shower, these small bits of rock and dust — most no bigger than a grain of sand — slam into the Earth's atmosphere at 79,000 mph. The force of their impact heats the air around them, causing streaks of light to shoot across the sky. 

Under excellent viewing conditions, astronomers say it is possible to see one Geminid per minute after 10 p.m. local time, no matter where you live. However, light pollution can drown out some of the fainter meteors.

This year's shower is accompanied by a waxing crescent moon that will leave the sky very dark — excellent for meteor-watching. 

According to the Royal Astronomy Society, the Geminid meteor shower has gotten more intense in recent years because the gravitational influence of Jupiter and Saturn has shifted a denser debris stream closer to our planet.

Although the Geminids have been observed since the late 19th century, 3200 Phaethon was discovered only in 1983. It was named after the son of the Greek sun god, Helios. Every 1.4 years, Phaethon flies closer to the sun than any other known object.

If you prefer to do your sky-watching in real life, you can start looking for meteors as soon as the sky starts growing dark on Sunday and Monday nights. Fewer shooting stars will be visible at this time, but they will be longer and more dramatic than those that will appear later in the evening.

The usual rules for meteor shower-watching apply: Get yourself to the darkest sky you can find, give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the light and then lie back and make yourself comfortable. 

No matter how you see the Geminids, I hope you enjoy it. Happy sky-watching!

Science rules! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.