by Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist | December 20, 2013 07:45am ET
| SPACE.com reader Jason J. Hatfield sent in a photo of the Geminids meteor shower over Needle’s Eye in Custer State Park, SD, taken in December 2012.
Credit: Jason J. Hatfield
When skywatchers think of meteor showers during the month of December, they immediately think of the Geminids, the most prolific and reliable of the dozen or so annual meteor displays.
And yet, there is also another notable December meteor shower that, by comparison, hardly gets much notice at all — the Ursids. This year, the peak of this meteor display is due in the wee hours of Sunday morning (Dec. 22).
The Ursids got their name because they appear to fan out from the vicinity of the bright orange star Kochab, in the constellation Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. Kochab is the brighter of the two outer stars in the bowl of the Little Dipper (the other being Pherkad), which seem to march in a circle like sentries around Polaris, the North Star. [See spectacular photos taken by skywatchers this month]