Meteor Showers - When and Where To Look

Meteor Showers - When and Where To Look

Meteor Showers Occur Throughout the Year. Here Are the Key Dates and Locations in the Night Sky.

Perseids over the VLT.jpg


It's always exciting to see a meteorite flash across the sky, but it's often a random event. Fortunately, there are periods of time throughout the year when meteorites are both predictable and frequent. These "meteor showers" are often named for the constellations that define the location of their appearance in the night sky.  The "Geminids" are a good example. They emerge from the constellation Gemini in mid-December and are traditionally one of the more dramatic meteor showers.  But we don't have to wait until next December to see them.  They happen with good frequency beginning in the Spring and running through Summer and Autumn. 


The ideal viewing position for meteor showers is a reclining position. Looking up is always an option, but a stiff neck often follows after a while. A sleeping bag with a pillow or two, or a chaise-lounge allows you a comfortable position and a ringside seat to the show. Not surprisingly, the darker the sky the better.  A night with a new moon is ideal as well as an area without  "light pollution" from ambient lights in the neighbourhood.


Finding the constellations is easy and can be done either with a star chart or a digital app on your Smartphone or digital pad. Beyond finding the correct constellation is knowing where and when to look. Here's a calendar  to bookmark that can guide your viewing all year long and the showers repeat each year so you can use the dates for many years to come too

Above image by: ESO/S. Guisard


Meteor Showers:

1. Quadrantids

Meteor Shower: Jan 1st to the 10th. Find the big dipper and look up from there. They typically peak from 1 to 3 am on January 2nd and January 3rd. This shower has an hourly rate of 120 meteors an hour.

Quadrantid meteor shower radiant point.jpeg

Image credit: EarthSky Communications, Inc.


2. Lyrids

Meteor Shower: April 16th to April 26th. In the constellation Lyra, which rises in the northeast at about 10 p.m. in the northern hemisphere. An early show but once again it gets better in the wee hours of the morning. Looking northeast is usually all you need to do if you can't figure out where the constellation Lyra is. Peak in 2014 is April 21/22. This shower has an hourly rate of 10.

Lyrid meteor shower radiant point.jpeg

Image credit: Bruce McClure and Joni Hall


3. Eta Aquariids

Meteor Shower: April 19th to May 26th. Visible from around the middle of April until late May, with peak around May 5th and 6th. Find the Aquarius constellation. Look towards the southern sky. Very late morning around 4 a.m. or right before dusk is ideal. This shower has an hourly rate of 30 and is from the dust left by Halley’s comet.


4. Perseids

Meteor Shower: July 13th to August 26th. The Perseids are often the best meteor shower of the year. They go on for about a week peaking on August 11th/12th. The Perseids originate from the constellation Perseus in the northeast sky. This shower has an hourly rate of 80.


5. Draconids

Meteor Shower: Early October. The Draconids, reach peak activity around October 8th. Meteors should be visible from around October 6th until October 10th. They can be seen from the constellation Draco in the northern sky. Scan north and you'll see your share although this proves to be a highly variable shower from year to year. The hourly rate is variable but has been up to 1000 in the past.


6. Taurids

Meteor Shower: October 19th to December 10th. The Taurids will be visible every night from around October 20 to November 30, but the peak will be on the 6th. They're also known as "Halloween fireballs." Look towards the Northeast.  This shower has an hourly rate of 5.


7. Leonids

Meteor Shower: November 5th to November 30th. The Leonids emerge from the constellation of Leo, and peak on November 17th and 18th.  Look for them in the Southeastern sky. Another good one through the night with peaks in the late morning hours after midnight. This shower has a variable hourly rate but can be incredible as the 1883 meteor storm picture below demonstrates.



8. Geminids

Meteor Shower: December 4th to the 16th. The Geminids are visible from December 7-17, and peak on the 14th.  They emerge from the constellation Gemini. They appear in the east-northeast sky early and gravitate towards the direct sky overhead into the early a.m. hours.  Often one of the most dramatic showers but you might need a blanket or two. The hourly rate is over 75 for this shower.


Image credit: Asim Patel


9. Ursids

Meteor Shower: December 17th to the 23rd. The Ursids begin around December 17 and continue until around the 25 or 26, with the peak occurring on December 21st and 22nd. They come out of Ursa minor and show up best after midnight. Most show up in low, northern sky. Given their proximity to the horizon you might be able to view these from a dark room in the house. The hourly rate is 10.


There are other smaller meteor showers during the year but if you're looking for high volumes and size these showers are your best bet.  You may see the random fireball now and again and that's always exciting.  It's more exciting when you can gather with family and friends and watch them together and wonder where they came from and how many more are out there and still to come.

Here is a video review of a meteor guide app.

Find more on: Observing the Night Sky

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