Like the flashing string lights that drape over windows and eaves, two meteor showers will bring bursts of scintillation throughout December. Also this month, Mars is nearly as close as it can get to Earth this year — making the red planet a dominant sight as it reaches opposition at at 1 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Dec. 8.

On the night of Mars’ opposition, the red planet and the sun will line up on opposite sides. The positioning creates what is essentially a “full moon” effect, allowing Mars to appear extra bright.

If the orbits of Earth and Mars were perfect circles, opposition would also be the closest the two planets can get. But they’re not — our orbits are slightly oval-shaped. Mars just passed its closest approach to Earth the night of Nov. 30, but still looks bigger than usual.

No telescope is necessary, but a good one can provide great views.

“If you have a telescope, it's a real feast,” said Bart Fried, executive vice president of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. “Mars is the best planet for viewing an actual surface, so you could compare it with the moon if you use a telescope. You'll need very high magnification to view Martian details.”

The Geminids, the most active meteor shower of the year, will peak on Dec. 13 and 14 in the New York area. This shower glitters in the constellation of Gemini with bright, intense colors, and can be best seen after 11 p.m., but most of the action happens later, closer to 2 a.m. On the night of the peak, locate the moon, which will hover above the horizon, where stargazers will be able to see the brief, white meteors shooting through the sky. The Geminids can yield up to 150 meteors per hour, but only 30-40 are typically visible because of the moon’s brightness.

The Geminid meteor shower derives its name from the meteors appearing to radiate from the constellation Gemini. Over 100 meteors are recorded in this composite image taken during the peak of the Geminid meteor shower in 2014.

To find the best view of these luminescent remnants of comets and asteroids, simply find a dark spot away from streetlights and just lie down and look up, patiently. When your eyes adjust to the darkness, you will begin to see the streaks of light across the sky.

“Dress very warm — much warmer than you think is necessary because you will be sitting still for an hour or more,” Fried said. “As with all meteor showers, don't bother with a telescope or binoculars. It's a naked eye event. A nice reclining chair or chaise longue works best. Some hot coffee with a little schnapps is a nice idea!”

Just as the Geminids peak, another shower — the Ursids — will begin, radiating near Kochab, a star in the Little Dipper constellation. Normally up to 10 illuminated meteors can be seen every hour in this second, smaller shower, but sometimes outbursts occur, exceeding 25 in a single hour. The Ursids will peak on the night after the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the longest night of the year.

Both showers will end on Christmas Eve, when the moon will be at perigee, its closest point to Earth at 222,600 miles away, which happens every 27 days.

The next meteor shower, the Quadrantids, will begin Dec. 26 and last until Jan. 16, 2023.

This story was updated to correct the day of the week the opposition is happening.