It’s the time of year when Northern Hemisphere skywatchers turn their attention to the Perseids, the favourite meteor shower of many an observer. The peak of the Perseids is predicted for moonset on 13 August 2019, bringing dark skies to watch these bright, fast shooting stars — the more explosive examples leaving persistent trails in the sky.
Hot on the heels of terrestrial fireworks ushering in the New Year, it’s time for some celestial pyrotechnics from the Quadrantid meteor shower – the year’s first major display of shooting stars – on 4 January. With an old waning crescent Moon not rising until nautical dawn in the UK, dark skies could see up to 80 meteors per hour around 2am GMT.
If skies are clear between moonset and the first glimmer of dawn this weekend, you may get to see some celestial fireworks from the Lyrid meteor shower. While it may not be the richest of the annual shooting star displays, the Lyrids can deliver a few fireballs and a portion of these medium-speed meteors can leave glowing trains.
As shooting-star devotees prepare for the naked-eye spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December, owners of small telescopes can also witness the close passage of the meteors’ parent body — a curious “rock comet” known as 3200 Phaethon, galloping through the constellations of Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pisces and Pegasus at a rate of up to 15 degrees/day.
If skies are clear between midnight and the first glimmer of dawn this weekend, you may get to see up to 20 celestial fireworks per hour from the Orionid meteor shower. While far from the richest of the annual shooting star displays, the Orionids are particularly swift and have their genesis in particles strewn along the orbit of Comet Halley.
It’s time to direct your attention skyward for some celestial pyrotechnics from the first major annual meteor shower — the Quadrantids. The short-lived peak of this active shower is predicted to occur at 2pm GMT on 3 January, favouring observers in the west of North America, but most Northern Hemisphere observers with clear skies will still see some shooting stars.
The first major annual meteor shower is the Quadrantids that is active from 1 to 6 January. While it is a display that can rival the August Perseids or the December Geminids at its best, most of the peak activity occurs within a six-hour window centred on a short, sharp maximum that is predicted to fall on the UK morning of Monday, 4 January 2016.
The highlight of October for meteor observers is the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs when the Earth encounters the debris stream of Halley’s Comet. With a broad maximum 21-23 October, peak rates are typically about a quarter of those seen for the Perseids of August. A good percentage of Orionids are bright and leave persistent trains.