Meteor Showers

Perseid Meteor Shower

August 12/13

 

The Perseid Meteor Shower is the most famous of the meteor showers. It is so named because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus, near its border with the constellation Cassiopeia.


The peak night to watch these "shooting stars" is August 12 starting at 10:30 PM through the early morning hours of August 13. In 2014, the waning gibbous Moon will rise at around 9:36 PM on the 12th and set at 8:54 AM on the 13th creating bright moonlight during peak viewing time.

 

If the Moon was not interfering, during this peak evening, if you were under dark skies away from city lights and other sources of light pollution, you could expect to see up to 100 meteors per hour. These meteors are traveling at 37 miles per second! This is not the year to see this many.


Perseid meteors are leftover debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet was first observed in 1862. The Perseid Meteor Shower has been observed since 36 A.D. Catholics refer to the Perseids as the "tears of St. Lawrence" because they fall on and around August 10 which is the Feast of St. Lawrence.


You can view Perseid meteors for several weeks surrounding the peak night. The Earth passes through the debris stream from July 17th until August 24th.

 

To see data from this year's meteor shower, check out the International Meteor Organization.

Photo Credit: Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey, Colorado - 2007

Orionid Meteor Shower

Peaks October 21, 2013

A Dark Sky Near You!

 

During mid to late October is the time to watch the Orionid Meteor Shower. The Shower will peak on October 21 in the pre-dawn hours, though the shower lasts from October 15 - 29. At peak you should be able to seeabout 20 meteors per hour if you are under dark skies away from city lights. The waning gibbous Moon will interfere during the peak viewing times this year.

 

The Orionid Meteor Shower is so named because all of the "shooting stars" seem to radiate from the constellation Orion. If you trace back the path of each meteor, it should go just to the left of the club of Orion. These meteors are traveling at a speed of 148,000 mph!

 

The Orionid Meteor Shower is caused by debris left behind by Halley's Comet which was last seen in our neighborhood in 1986. The debris from Halley's Comet also produces the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower in May. The debris ranges in size from the size ofa pea on down.

 

The Orionid Meteor Shower was first observed by the Chinese in 288 A.D. Bundle up, grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and head outside for a beautiful October show! 

 

This event is free and open to the public ;)

Leonid Meteor Shower

November 17/18, 2013

 

This is the time of year for raking leaves, finding the perfect turkey, and watching the Leonid Meteor Shower. Leonid Meteors can be seen from November 10 - November 23, with the peak night being November 17 into the early morning hours of November 18. Expect to see between 10 - 20 meteors per hour (on a normal night you might see between 4 - 6 per hour). In 2013, a full Moon will interfere, so look toward the darkest part of your sky.

The Leonid Meteor Shower is caused by debris left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The debris ranges in size from the size of a pea on down. The Leonid Meteor Shower was first observed in 1833 as a meteor storm when thousands of meteors fell per hour. They seemed to all be coming from the constellation Leo.

 

 

As you can see from this drawing, the sky was literally raining meteors. In Athens, OH, we observed a meteor storm during the Leonids in 2001 in the early morning hours of November 18, 2001, when thousands of meteors fell per hour for several hours. It was a stunning display!

The Leonids are best observed in the early morning hours as the constellation Leo climbs towards the zenith. Grab a lawn chair (preferably one that reclines), a blanket or sleeping bag (it's cold out there), and some hot chocolate, and then, in the words of the late Jack Horkheimer, "Keep looking up!"

This event is free and open to the public :)  

Leonid Meteor Shower - 2013

Geminid Meteor Shower

December 13/14, 2013

 

     The Geminid Meteor Shower is unique in that these meteors are debris left behind by an asteroid, whereas all other meteor showers can be traced to a parent comet. The Geminids are left behind bits of the asteroid Phaethon. Why this rocky asteroid is leaving behind bits that become our meteors is still under study.

 

     The Geminids seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini. The shower lasts from December 6 to December 18 with the peak being on the night of December 13/14 from midnight until dawn. In 2013, a waxing gibbous Moon will interfere. During the peak, up to 80 meteors per hour can be seen under ideal conditions.

The Geminids were first discovered in 1862. During the early years, rates ran between 10-20 meteors per hour, and rose steadily through the 1970s. The rates have remained consistently in the 80 meteors per hour range ever since.

 

For a more detailed history, click here.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

January 3, 2013

 

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower can be the most active meteor shower of the year, but getting to see these meteors can be problematic. The peak of the shower lasts for only a few hours with rates as high as 120 meteors per hour. The waning gibbous Moon will interfere. Even so, the best time to watch is from 1 AM to dawn on January 3rd. Besides dealing with freezing temperatures, it is also the cloudiest time of the year. 

 

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower was named for a now defunct constellation - Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant). The radiant is below the Big Dipper and above the constellation Bootes. It was believed to be an orphan meteor shower with no parent comet, until 2003 when it was linked to asteroid 2003 EH1 by Peter Jenniskens. This asteroid is thought to be expired comet C/1490 Y1.

 

Quadrantid Meteors can be observed from December 28 through January 10, with the peak falling on the evening of January 2-3. Qudrantid Meteors travel at a speed of 25 miles per second (41 kph). The peak has been predicted to be from 1 - 6 AM on January 3rd. Bundle up, grab your favorite hot beverage and drag out that lawn chair if the skies are clear. You won't be disappointed!

THIS WAS OUR WRAP-UP FROM 2012. STAY TUNED TO SEE WHAT HAPPEND WITH THIS SHOWER IN 2013. (January 5, 2012) The actual meteor counts are coming in showing a peak rate that is far short of the expected rate. The International Meteor Organization is posting actual counts. Click here to go to their website.

 

Locally, we had high clouds from 2 - 3 AM obscuring all but the brightest meteors. From 3 - 4 AM, we had clearer skies but very few meteors. Local counts were in the 10 - 20 meteors per hour range. Observers were able to watch the NASA live video stream and to hear meteors using Space Weather Radio.

Lyrid meteor Shower

April 21/22

 

The Lyrid Meteor Shower is not considered a major shower, but from time to time it does flare up to put on quite a show. The Lyrid Meteors are debris left behind by Comet Thatcher. Typically, you would see 10 - 20 meteors per hour especially during the pre-dawn hours on the 22nd. These meteors are not very bright so any moonlight will make the shower a bust. This year (2013), we have lots of interference from a waxing gibbous Moon, but the early morning hours will still be dark.

Credit: Spaceweather.com

Lyrid Meteors appear to originate in the constellation Lyra.  Lyrid Meteors can be seen from April 16th to the 26th, with the peak being on the evening of April 21/22. There have been several recorded instances of the Lyrid Meteor Shower producing a meteor storm with hundreds of meteors per hour.

 

The Lyrid Meteor Shower is the oldest of the meteor showers dating back to 687 B.C.

 

Be sure to bundle up when you head out to watch this shower - April evenings can still be frosty!