Meteor showers are beautiful shows organized by nature. There are several to come in the next few months, and all you need to view them is the know-how to determine the best times and places to view them, which we detail below. And maybe a comfortable seat.
Where to watch the meteor showers
While it is possible to watch a meteor shower from your backyard, you will be able to see things more clearly from a very dark viewing area. You can find up-to-date dark sky maps that will show you the light pollution in your city, and the best night sky viewing areas near you at sites such as DarkSiteFinder or the International Dark Sky Places Conservation Program. As a rule, these places are far from bright cities in large open areas or at higher elevations, and are also great places for stargazing.
Before you go, check the active dates of the shower and when it should reach its peak. This gives you the best chance of seeing more meteors per hour than at any other time. Also be sure to adjust your time zone and note the current cycle of the moon. A certified Dark Sky Place won’t matter much if there’s a full moon that night.
What equipment should you take?
Once you’ve found a good viewing area, all you really need to bring is your enthusiasm and some creature comforts like blankets, chairs, and coffee in a thermos (to keep you warm and awake, of course. ). You can bring binoculars or even a telescope, but these limit your field of view and might make you miss the show. If you have a good camera and tripod, you can bring these in and take a few pictures or create a time lapse view. the latest google pixel phones are capable of astrophotography, so they should allow you to take excellent photos of the night sky.
Make sure to cook for about 30 to 45 minutes in your program to let your eyes adjust to the dark. If you absolutely need the light, make sure it is Red light, which is bright enough to illuminate your surroundings without disturbing your dark-adjusted eyes. This means that you will also have to put your smartphone away!
When are the next showers?
Although we are in the final months of 2020, there are still a few meteor showers you can catch before the year is out. Make sure to mark your calendar!
This shower is active from October 6 to 10 and peaks on October 7. This shower is easier to see in the late evening, rather than after midnight like most others. Although it is generally dull with only a handful of meteors per hour, it sometimes rises like its namesake dragon and produces hundreds of them in a single hour.
These are active from October 2 to November 7 and peak between October 21 and 22. This group of meteors comes from Halley’s Comet, which we won’t be able to see again until 2061.
This shower is active from November 6 to 30 and peaks around November 16 to 17 and is one of the lowest annual showers. Every 33 years or so, however, it becomes a meteor storm. During its last storm in 2001, thousands of meteors passed through Earth’s atmosphere in a short period of 15 minutes.
These are active from December 4 to 17 and peak around December 13 to 14. It is one of the most popular and prolific shows of the year, with around 120 meteors visible per hour. We believe these meteors, along with the January quadrantids, were once part of an asteroid (3200 Phaeton) rather than a comet like most others.
The last meteor shower of the year is active from December 17 to 26 and peaks around December 22 to 23. While it’s not as exciting as the Geminids with just 10-20 meteors visible per hour, it’s a perfect way to ring in the Winter Solstice. These meteors are visible around their namesake constellation – Ursa Minor – and are believed to have originated from comet 8P / Tuttle.