SKYWATCH by Stuart Atkinson

If the sky is clear late on Friday night keep an eye out for shooting stars, because that's when the annual Geminids meteor shower reaches its peak. Although the number of meteors we will see this year is going to be reduced because there'll be a big bright Moon exactly where we don't want it to be, we should still see quite a few more than usual.

Shooting stars aren't stars at all, of course, but tiny bits of space dust - most no bigger than a coffee grain or a piece of grit - burning up as they streak through Earth's atmosphere. Around a dozen times each year we see more of them than usual when Earth goes through streams of dust left behind by comets or asteroids, and on Friday night we'll see shooting stars streaking away from the constellation of Gemini, which is where the shower gets its name from.

Although you'll see some Geminid meteors from your garden, you'll see many more if you can get away from light pollution and objects cluttering your skyline. So if you can, head out into the countryside after dark on Friday evening, find a quiet place to skywatch from, face the east, and wait. If we're lucky we should see a shooting star every few minutes, but that big Moon will do its best to spoil the show...

The longer you can stay out, the more you'll see - but if it's cloudy Friday night don't worry, it's worth looking the night before and the night after too if the weather is better, because there'll still be more activity than usual before and after the peak.

Good luck!