Where & When to Look for Meteor Showers
Table of Contents
Important facts on all the major meteor showers throughout the year.
Meteors can streak across the sky at any time. But there are times of the year when Earth passes through a dense stream of debris, usually left behind by a comet, triggering a meteor shower. As Earth travels through its yearly orbit it hits these dense streams around the same time each year. Here is a list of the 11 best showers each year.
Quadrantids Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are usually named after the constellation from which they emanate. (Trace their paths backward and they appear to come from one place in the sky – they’re radiant.) The Quadrantids are named after an obsolete constellation named Quadrans Muralis. The location is now best described as the conjunction of Hercules, Bootes, and Draco. The meteors may appear anytime between January 1 and 6, but the peak is generally January 3/4. The parent comet responsible for this shower was only recently announced in 2003 as comet 2003 EH1. Its Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR), or the amount of meteors expected an hour during its peak, is 90.
April Lyrids Meteor Shower
The next shower of the year that is both predictable and easy to view occurs between April 19 and 24, with the peak on April 22. Emanating from the constellation Lyra, the responsible comet for this shower is named Thatcher. The April Lyrids ZHR is 12.
Eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower
Between May 1 and 8, with a peak on May 5/6, the Eta-Aquarids appear to come from the constellation Aquarius near the star Eta. This shower, whose ZHR is 45, is one of two annual showers whose source is Halley’s Comet.
June Lyrids Meteor Shower
The second good shower of the year to come from the constellation Lyra occurs between June 10 and 21, with the peak on June 15/16. The source of this meteor shower is unknown. It is a quieter shower, with a ZHR of 9.
Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower
Although many minor showers occur in July and August, this is one of the best. The Southern Delta Aquarids, which appear to radiate from Aquarius near the star Delta, occur between July 15 and August 15, with a peak on July 28/29. The parent comet for this shower is unknown. Expect about 19 meteors an hour during maximum.
Another shower with a long time span in which to grab a view, extending from July 25 to August 18, the Perseids peak on August 12/13. Appearing to come from the constellation Perseus, the comet Swift-Tuttle is responsible for the show that can reach 80 meteors an hour at maximum.
Orionids Meteor Shower
The second shower of the year courtesy of Halley’s Comet occurs between October 16 and 26, with its peak on October 21. Appearing to emanate from the constellation Orion, expect about 25 meteors an hour at maximum.
Taurids Meteor Showers
Technically this is two different meteor showers, but their peak dates of November 4 to 7 overlap and they occur close in the sky. Comet Encke is the culprit behind the Taurids and the shower’s ZHR is 8. Look toward the constellation Taurus.
Leonids Meteor Shower
One of the most popular though variable showers of the year, the Leonids occur between November 15 and 19 with a peak around November 17/18. Coming from the constellation Leo, the meteors can reach a ZHR of 10 on an ordinary year. Comet Temple-Tuttle is the source of this shower.
Geminids Meteor Shower
One of two December showers, the Geminids occur between December 7 and 15 with its peak on December 13/14. Appearing to come from the constellation Gemini, you can expect a ZHR of 80. The Geminids are unique because they are the first meteor shower known to be produced by an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon.
Ursids Meteor Shower
The last good meteor shower of the year has its radiant in Ursa Minor. Occurring between December 17 and 24, its peak is on December 22. The most likely parent candidate for the Ursids meteor shower is Comet Tuttle. Expect a ZHR of 9.