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What are Meteor Showers?

What is a Meteor Shower?

A meteor shower is a relentless period of meteors hitting the upper atmosphere on Earth or any other planet. Meteor showers should not be seen as a purely Earth only feature because there's nothing to say they can't occur on other planets.

Meteor Showers normally occur when the Earth or any planet passes through a stream of debris that was left by a comet or passing asteroid. Meteor showers can appear at any time during the day, they are just more visible during the night. An example of a daytime shower is the Daytime Zeta Arietids

They occur at roughly the same period every year. Some can be quite spectacular if the associated object has recently come close to the Sun. The meteors in a meteor shower are likely to be small fragments, none that would not burn up in the atmosphere and become a meteorite.

Showers are best brightest when the source of the meteor shower has paid a visit to the local vicinity. For example, Comet Temple-Tuttle has a 33 year journey. The Leonids are best nearly every 33 years and then afterwards they decrease in spectacle every year there after.

There are over 750 Meteor Showers currently registered. Some of those meteor showers are one off events but have been recorded in case they flare up again. Over time some of the Meteor Showers will stop completely, for instance the Orionids and Eta Aquariids are linked to Halley Comet and that will over time have melted away and therefore no more debris will be left to pass through.

As old meteor showers disappear, some new ones will appear, for instance if a new comet was to come by and get captured into close orbit round the sun, it will leave a trail of dust particles which will become the new meteor shower.

How Meteor Showers Are Named

Most of the meteor showers are named after the constellation and the star that is closest to where meteor shower radiates out from. However, the Quadrantid, although they occur within the Bootes constellation, occur on the north-westerly end of the constellation boundaries are named after a now defunct constellation.

A meteor shower radiant point can start in one constellation and over time the radiant point can move into another constellation. An example of this is the Andromedids meteor shower whose radiant point is now near the star Caph in the neighbouring constellation of Cassiopeia.

When there are multiple meteor showers per a constellation, the name of the shower usually takes the form of the closest star. For example, the constellation has the Leonids and the Delta Leonids meteor showers. Meteor Showers are normally named using the Bayer name rather than proper names such as Zosma.

There are number of meteor showers that are grouped based on their constellation and occurs close to one another. The most well known of these are the Virginids which consist of the Alpha Virginids, Gamma, Eta, Theta, Iota, Lambda, Mu, Pi, Psi and March. It should not be seen as appear as per moving down the greek alphabet, i.e. Alpha Virginids, i.e. Alpha Virginids first its based on the nearest star to the radiant point.

How To View A Meteor Shower

First you need to work know when the meteor shower can be best viewed. Whilst my site is a guide, it won't necessarily tell you when to best view them. Not all meteor showers are viewable from all over the world.

You're going to need a bit of patience as they are spread throughout the hour and will be very fast and quick. You should take time to let your eyes prepare for the darkness. If you can, use red light to work out any positioning or using any maps, don't use yellow or white as that will not help.

If the moon is full or bright then seeing the meteors are not going to work. You ideally need a New Moon and it should go without saying, it should be a clear night. Don't bother trying if the sky is broken and you hope to see the shower through the broken clouds, it probably be a waste of time.

Major Meteor Showers

Quadrantid

This meteor shower occurs at the very start of the year, about the 2nd and 3rd of January in the Northern Hemisphere. It is one of the major meteor showers because it has been know that about 100 an hour have been recorded. The meteorite streaks are faint but the numbers more than make up for them. The radiant point is located near the boundary.

Lyrids

The Lyrids occur near the end of April. The meteor shower's radiant point is to the east of Vega which is the brightest star in the constellation. It is considered one of the majors.

Eta Aquariids

The Eta Aquariids are one of two meteor showers that are most associated with Halley's Comet, the most famous of all comets. The Eta Aquarrids are large in number so hopefully you should get a good viewing. The Eta Aquariids are viewable at the end of April, beginning of May with the prominent day being 5th or 6th May.

Perseids

The Persides are the August meteor shower and they are known for their spectacle. The source of the comet is Swift-Tuttle which as an orbit of 133 years so you could be waiting a long time between events. The last time it made an appearance was in 1992 and therefore its return is not until 2126. Best to look elsewhere for a spectacular event.

Orionids

The Orionids appear about the 21 of October. The Orionids are also associated with Halley's Comet.

Leonids

As mentioned before, this meteor shower is relatively frequent given its 33 year orbit. The next return of the comet is due in May 2031 so hopefully we should have something to look forward towards that date. The max activity date is about the middle of November.

Geminids

You could say the Geminids are the main meteor shower of the year and most spectacular. There are other meteor showers in the same constellation such as the Rho and the Epsilon but they are different. What marks the Geminids out as different from the reset is that the meteors are colourful whereas all the others have meteors of the same colour. The Geminid meteors can come in Yellow, White, Blue and Green for example. The source of the Geminids is an asteroid called Phaethon rather than the more common Cometary source.

List of Meteor Showers

NameActivityMaxDate
QuadrantidsJan 01 - Jan 05 Jan 03
Gamma Velids1-17 Jan5/8 Jan
nu Andromedids6th January
Rho Geminids28-Dec - 28 Jan8/9 Jan
January Draconids10-24 Jan13/16 Jan
Eta Craterids11-Jan - 22 Jan16/17 Jan
upsilon Eridanids16th January
Northern delta Cancrids16th January
Southern delta Cancrids16th January
Lambda BootidsJan 17-18Jan 17
Alpha Hydrids15-30 Jan20/21 Jan
Eta Carinids14-Jan - 27 Jan21 - Jan
Alpha Leonids13-Jan - 13-Feb24/31 Jan
January Nu Orionids28th January
Zeta Aurigids11-Dec - 21 Jan31-Jan
Daytime beta Andromedids2nd February
Daytime Capricornids-Sagittariids4th February
Beta Cancrids5th February
Alpha CentauridsJan 28 - Feb 21 Feb 07
Beta Centaurids2-Feb - 25 FebFeb 8/9
Omicron CentauridsJan 31 - Feb 19Feb 11
Chi Capricornids29 Jan- 28 Feb13-Feb
Daytime c Aquariids13th Feb
Delta Chamaeleontids14th February
Theta CentauridsFeb 12 - Feb 16Feb 14
Beta HerculidsFebruary 13-16February 14
Southern delta Leonids23rd February
Delta LeonidsFeb 15 - Mar 10 Feb 25
Sigma Leonids9-Feb - 13 MarFeb 25 - 26
Northern delta Leonids27th February
Rho LeonidsFeb 13 - Mar 13Mar 1 - 4
Pi VirginidsFebruary 13-April 8Mar. 3-9
March Lyncids25 Jan- 15 May07-Mar
Northern alpha Leonids9th March
Gamma NormidsFeb 25 - Mar 22 Mar 13
Daytime kappa Aquariids15th March
Daytime q Pegasids15th March
Southern March Virginids16th March
Delta Mensids17th March
Eta VirginidsFebruary 24-March 27Mar. 18/19
nu Hydrids19th March
Beta LeonidsFeb 14 - Apr 25Mar 19/21
Northern Daytime May Arietids24th March
Eta DraconidsMar 22 - Apri 8Mar 29/31
Theta VirginidsMarch 10-April 21Mar. 20/21
Kappa Serpentids1 Apr- 7 Apr05-Apr
Alpha VirginidsMarch 10-May 6Apr. 7-18
Southern gamma Virginids12th April
Northern gamma Virginids14th April
Daytime April Piscids16th April
April PiscidsApril 8-29Apr. 20/21
LyridsApril 16-25Apr. 22
Pi PuppidsApr 15 - Apr 28 Apr 23
Mu Virginids1-Apr - 12-May24 - Apr
May Phi Virginids2nd May
May Alpha Comae Berenicids3rd May
Eta AquaridsApril 21-May 12May 5/6
Omega Cetids5 May- 9 Jun07-May
Daytime Epsilon Arietids24 Apr- 27 May09-May
Eta LyridsMay 03 - May 12 May 09
Epsilon ArietidsMay 9/10
Omicron CetidsMay 7-June 9May 14-25
Alpha Scorpiids21 Apr- 26 May15-May
May Delta Leonids15th May
nu Ursae Majorids15th May
May ArietidsMay 16/17
Epsilon AquilidsMay 4-27May17/18
A2 Taurids22nd May
May Psi Scorpiids24th May
Daytime Epsilon Arietids24th May
CamelopardalidsMay 23 - May 24May 24
South Omega Scorpiids23 May- 15 Jun31-May
North Omega Scorpiids23 May- 15 Jun31-May
Northern omega Scorpiids31st May
Tau Herculids2nd June
ArietidsSept 7-Oct 27Oct. 8/9
Daytime Zeta Perseids20 May- 5 Jul09-Jun
June Epsilon Cygnids14th June
June LyridsJune 10-21Jun. 15/16
CorvidsJune 17th
SagittariidsJun 1 - Jul 15Jun 19
Delta PiscidsJun 20-26Jun 23
Pi Cetids16 Jun- 4 Jul26-Jun
ScutidsJune 26th
June Scutids (Eta Serpentids)2 Jun- 29 Jul27-Jun
June BootidsJune 27-July 5Jun. 28/29
Daytime Beta Taurids5 Jun- 17 Jul28-Jun
Tau Aquariids27 Jun- 6 Jul28-Jun
July Centaurids5th July
July Delta Sagittariids11th July
July PhoenicidsJuly 9-17Jul. 14/15
Southern Delta AquariidsJul 12 - Aug 19 Jul 28
Piscis Austrinids15 Jul- 10 Aug28-Jul
Beta Cassiopeids3 Jul- 19 Aug29-Jul
July Rho Herculids29th July
Alpha CapricornidsJul 03 - Aug 15 Jul 30
Southern Iota AquariidsJuly 1-September 18Aug. 6/7
Eta Eridanids3 Aug- 14 Aug09-Aug
August omicron Cetids10th August
August Nu Aquariids12th August
PerseidsJuly 23-August 22Aug. 12/13
Northern Delta AquariidsJuly 16-Sepember 10Aug. 13/14
delta Librids14th August
Kappa CygnidsAug 03 - Aug 25 Aug 17
August delta Capricornids19th August
Daytime Gamma Leonids22th August
eta Serpentids24th August
Northern Iota AquariidsAug 11-Sep 10Aug. 25/26
Gamma LeonidsAug 14-Sept 12Aug. 25/26
Daytime Chi Leonids27th August
Gamma Doradids27 Aug- 3 Sep28-Aug
Alpha AurigidsAug 25-Sept 6Sept. 1/2
Gamma AquariidsSeptember 1-14Sept. 7/8
PegasidsJuly 7-13July 9th
September Epsilon Perseids5 Sep- 21 Sep09-Sep
September gamma Sagittariids13th September
omega Piscids17th September
Southern delta Piscids19th September
September Rho Pegasids20th September
kappa Aquariids22nd September
Daytime Sextantids9 Sep- 9 Oct27-Sep
Delta AurigidsSep 18 - Oct 10 Sep 29
DraconidsOctober 6-10Oct. 9/10
October Draconids8th October
Southern October delta Arietids9th October
lambda Cygnids12th October
gamma Piscids13th October
delta Cygnids14th October
Tau CancridsOct 9-25Oct 17
Epsilon GeminidsOct 14 - Oct 27 Oct 18
OrionidsOctober 15-29Oct. 21
Leonis MinoridsOct 19 - Oct 27 Oct 23
Lambda Cetids29th October
Tau Arietids2nd November
Southern TauridsSept 17-Nov 27Oct. 30-Nov. 7
AndromedidsOct 26-Nov 20Nov 08
November Eta Taurids9th November
November Gamma Pegasids11th November
Northern TauridsOct 12-Dec 2Nov. 4-7
November Iota Aurigids1 Nov- 23 Nov15-Nov
LeonidsNovember 13-20Nov. 17/18
Alpha MonocerotidsNov 15 - Nov 25 Nov 21
November epsilon Eridanids23rd November
omega Taurids24th November
Southern Chi Orionids25th November
Tau Taurids26th November
Daytime Delta Scorpiids6th December
PhoenicidsNov 29-Dec 9Dec. 5/6
Puppid/VelidsDec 01 - Dec 15 Dec 07
August Mu Draconids8th December
Delta ArietidsDecember 8-January 2Dec. 8/9
MonocerotidsNov 27 - Dec 17 Dec 09
Northern Chi Orionids10th December
Sigma HydridsDec 03 - Dec 15 Dec 12
GeminidsDecember 6-19Dec. 13/14
December Leonis Minoris5 Dec- 4 Feb20-Dec
UrsidsDecember 17-25Dec. 22
Coma BerenicidsDec 8-Jan 23Dec. 18-Jan. 6

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