A Geminid meteor falls to Earth in 1999.
The Geminid meteor shower peaked overnight with one or two per minute reported in some cloudless rural areas. But if it has passed its peak, the show is not yet over. And at this writing -- with satellite imagery suggesting the possibility of light, thin, sporadic cloud cover -- skywatchers tonight may still enjoy quite an impressive display. According to skywatcher Joe Rao at space.com, the waning week-long Geminids meteor shower may produce 30 to 60 meteoric flashes per hour Thursday night into Friday morning.
Spawned by an asteroid- or comet-like object named 3200 Phaeton, the Geminids' dense debris tends to move slower and burn brighter and longer than other showering meteors, according to the site. Indeed, many connoisseurs regard the Geminids as more impressive and satisfying than summer's Perseids.
Assuming sufficient breaks in cloud cover, the best viewing will be from dark locations. Skywatchers are recommended to allow their eyes to adjust for 15 minutes, and to position themselves at a perspective that permits the greatest possible span of sky toward the east and northeast (where the constellation Gemini will be rising higher and higher above the horizon) until midnight, when the Geminids should decorate the entire sky. Geminid-watching veterans advise warm clothes or sleeping bags and hot chocolate or coffee.
Madison's light pollution will obscure the show, reducing the number of visible meteors if not blocking them out altogether. But a waning moon may compensate for this, because it is will be two days past last quarter and will not rise in most locations until 1 or 2 a.m. So if you missed last night's peak, tonight will be your last best chance until next year's Geminids, as the week-long display diminishes toward the weekend.