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.
With a waxing gibbous Moon setting at 1am BST for the UK on the night of 12-13 August, observers will have dark skies for what could be a Perseid meteor shower to remember. Some theorists believe that Jupiter’s gravitational influence has deflected more particles from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle into Earth’s path for a spectacular show.
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.
From the evening of Wednesday, 12 August into the early hours of the following morning, it is the maximum of the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year, a new Moon makes prospects for watching this natural firework display particularly good. So, find somewhere away from the streetlights, settle into a garden lounger facing northeast, and enjoy the show!