The 2018 Geminid meteor shower peaks overnight tonight (Dec. 13) and Google is celebrating the celestial light show with a Google Doodle that is simply out of this world.
The doodle, while not animated, is a super-adorable slideshow that depicts the evolution of the Geminid meteor shower from its parent body, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, to the amazing celestial event we know today.
"Named after the ancient Greek god Apollo's son, 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid whose orbit brings it closer to our sun than Mercury," the Google Doodle folks wrote in a doodle description. "First discovered via satellite data 35 years ago, Phaethon is responsible for bringing the spectacular Geminid meteor showers to Earth's atmosphere each December. With each passing year since the mid-1800s, the proliferation of yellowish streaks of light in the night-time sky have grown more intense. [2018 Geminid Meteor Shower Guide]
The Geminid meteor shower occur when Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from 3200 Phaethon. When those bits of space rock hit Earth's atmosphere, they burn up as dazzling meteors.
"The cosmic dust may have resulted from a crash with another flying object, but there's little danger of any Geminids landing on Earth as it normally disintegrates in the Earth's atmosphere," Google representatives wrote.
NASA's meteor expert Bill Cooke has told Space.com that the 2018 Geminids have the potential to be the best meteor shower of the year. Space.com columnist Joe Rao agreed, citing in his column the nice timing of this year's Geminids: the crescent moon will set around 10:30 p.m. local time and will not interfere with any brilliant meteors.
But when should you look? Be prepared to stay up late.
"No need for a telescope or binoculars: fragments from Phaethon,s debris trail should become visible after 9 pm on December 13, peaking after midnight with as many as 120 meteors per hour," Google Doodle representatives wrote.
Editor's note: If you capture an amazing view of the Geminid meteor shower or any other night sky view that you would like to share with Space.com for a possible story or gallery, send images and comments in to: email@example.com.