Meteor showers are beautiful shows put on by nature. There are several coming up over the next few months, and all you need to display is the expertise to figure out the best times and places to display, which we covered below. And maybe a comfortable seat.
Where to watch meteor showers
While it is possible to watch a meteor shower from your yard, you can see things more clearly from a super dark viewing area. Sites like DarkSiteFinder or the International Dark Sky Places Protection Program can find up-to-date dark sky maps showing you the light pollution in your city and the best night sky observation areas near you. Usually these places are far from bright cities in wide areas or at higher elevations and are also great for stargazing.
Before setting off, double-check the active shower data and the expected climax. This gives you the best chance of seeing more meteors per hour than any other time. Make sure to also adjust to your time zone and note the current cycle of the moon ̵
What equipment should you bring with you?
Once you’ve found a good viewing area, all that’s left is to bring your enthusiasm and a few amenities 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 will limit your field of view and can cause you to miss the show. However, if you have a good camera and tripod, you can bring them and snap a few photos or do a time-lapse. The latest Google Pixel phones have astrophotography capabilities, so you can get some excellent photos of the night sky.
Make sure you bake for about 30-45 minutes on your schedule to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. If you absolutely need some light, make sure it’s red light, bright enough to illuminate your surroundings without disturbing your dark-set eyes. This means you have to put your smartphone away too!
When are the coming showers?
Although we are in the final months of 2020, there are still a few meteor showers to catch before the year ends. Be sure to mark your calendar!
This shower is active between October 6th and October 10th and peaks on October 7th. This shower is easier to see in the late evening than after midnight like most of the others. While it’s usually lackluster with just a handful of meteors per hour, it occasionally rises like its eponymous dragon and produces hundreds in a single hour.
These are active from October 2nd to November 7th and peak between October 21st and 22nd. 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 6th to 30th and peaks from November 16th to 17th. It is one of the weaker annual showers. However, every 33 years or so it turns into a meteor storm. During the last storm in 2001, thousands of meteors grazed the earth’s atmosphere in just 15 minutes.
These are active from December 4th to 17th and peak from December 13th to 14th. It’s one of the most popular and productive shows of the year with around 120 meteors visible per hour. We believe that these meteors, along with the January Quadrantids, were once part of an asteroid (3200 Phaethon) and not like most other comets.
The last meteor shower of the year is active from December 17th to 26th and peaks from December 22nd to 23rd. While not as exciting as the Geminids, with only 10 to 20 meteors visible per hour, it’s a perfect way to usher in the winter solstice. These meteors are visible around their namesake constellation – Ursa Minor – and are believed to come from Comet 8P / Tuttle.