If you have clear skies and can watch after midnight, chances are good that you can catch way more than one “falling ” star this weekend.
The bright, prolific Perseids, will be shooting debris from the 109P/ Swift- Tuttle comet at 90 or more meteors per hour late at night, Aug. 11-13 and peaking Aug. the 13th. The moon is a waning crescent so shouldn’t be a light factor.
They already started in mid-July and continue until Sept 1 but this weekend is expected to be their biggest display.
They are fun to watch as they are fast (37 miles per second) and are streaks of light with long trains or “wakes.” Plus, they are usually colorful.
Best time to look is very, very early in the morning before the sun rises. They shoot all over the sky but the radiant (where they seem to come from) is the northern section of constellation Perseus which is higher in the sky shortly before dawn.
Sky watchers might catch a glimpse of the Capricornids. They are not abundant but if you see a bright slash across the sky it’s likely to be a Capricornid meteor. They peaked July 26 but are continuing through mid-August.
Look for the triangular Capricornus (Sea Goat) constellation for the Capricornid radiant.
Then be rewarded for looking up the beginning of August when the Delta Aquarids fly across the sky at about 10 per hour.
They peaked July 29 but continue through Aug. 19. However, you might miss some because they are not bright and don’t have a noticeable tail.
For their radiant look for Aquarius the Water Bearer (see a triangle of stars with a fourth star in the middle) between Capricornus and Pegasis’ Great Square.
Next, watch for the Perseids in mid-August. They are already shooting across the sky but will peak about Aug. 13-15 and continue through Aug. 24.
They come from the Swift-Tuttle also are abundant but more easily seen than the Delta Aquarids.
May 5 is celebrated as a victorious battle day by Mexican communities in the United States. So if in Chicago find a couple of Cinco de Mayo restaurant deals at Dining Out Eating In.
But if wondering why there are “falling stars” overhead or why it’s so bright outside that night, check out the following information.
The Flower Moon
If the sky isn’t particularly cloudy where you live than the evening will seem brighter than usual May 4-6, 2023. May’s full Moon has total illumination in the afternoon of May 5 at 1:36 p.m. EDT but will appear full in the evening of May 4-6. The clue to the name of the May full Moon surrounds us almost everywhere there is a plot of earth.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has the time the moon will be rising above the horizon and setting where you live.
As followers of Travel Smart know by now, the name of a month’s Moon (and yes, it often is referred to the whole month by the same name), often comes from Native American tribes, long ago European farmers and also religions and cultures that base some festivals on lunar events.
May 5-6 is also when to watch for the Eta Aquarids, a meteor shower that typically sends about 50 meteors an hour across the sky. Their parent is 1pHalley which produces two meteor showers during the year.
The May shower is named for a bright star in constellation Eta Aquarli and is the first meteor shower from Comet Halley debris.
Earth passes through Halley’s path around the Sun again in October when its debris is known as the Orionid meteor shower that peaks around October 20.
The prolific Lyrid Meteor Shower fills the skies with “falling stars” April 15 through April 29, 2023. But to really see them in action check the late night sky after the moon has set during their peak activity April 22-23.
However, the moon should not be a factor because it is between its new moon (dark) phase April 20 and First Quarter Moon (sliver) April 27.
The Lyrids typically produce about 18 meteors per hour traveling about 29 miles per second. On rare occasions they have produced a storm of meteorites shooting across the sky.
Lyrids’ arrival in Earth’s atmosphere is an annual sky event discovered by A.E. Thatcher in April, 1861. Thus, they are formally attributed as debris from Comet Thatcher (comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher).
To get a good idea of where they seem to originate visit Time and Date for its live-action photo centered on an area between the constellation Lyra (The Harp) with its bright Vega star, and its neighbor, constellation Hercules.
Best is to go out after midnight through pre-dawn when the star, Vega, is overhead. Be patient and allow your eyes to acclimate to the dark sky. You don’t have to look for the Lyrids’ radiant (origination point) because their trail appears longer further away.
If you have ever seen a sky show in a planetarium such as the Adler in Chicago, you know that stars and constellations rise and move from one direction in the sky to another. So, you may look northeast early in the evening for Vega, then overhead as the night progresses and then more southwest at dawn.
New Year’s Eve fireworks kept sky watchers engrossed as TV stations moved across the world to different time zones and countries Dec. 31, 2022.
Then nature followed with the Quadrantids meteors. Begun Dec. 28, it peaks pre-dawn Jan. 3 to Jan 4 in 2023. Their “parent” is the Asteroid 2003 EH from the defunct constellation Quadrans Mualis.
They seem to radiate from a point east of Ursa Minor (The Little Dipper) but can be seen anywhere in a clear sky. The problem will be the moon which will be waxing gibbous on its way to full illumination Jan. 6.
Next looking up, is a Mircromoon. Called the Wolf Moon, January’s full moon is considered a Micromoon because it appears smaller due to its orbit which takes it far from Earth (as opposed to a Supermoon which appears large because it is close to Earth).
The January 2023 full moon reaches full illumination at 5 p.m. CST Jan. 6, but will appear full the day before and day after. Some Native Tribes have called it the Wolf Moon because wolves tend to howl more in January.
By now you probably heard that the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice of Dec. 21, 2022, will be making itself known Wednesday followed on Dec. 22-23 by very cold temps, blowing winds and more snow than folks need for a white Christmas.
So, it might be challenging to see the Urid meteors flying across the sky when they peak in the very early hours Thursday and Friday. The good news is that the moon is in its darkest waning crescent phase with very little illumination and becomes a new moon with no illumination Dec. 23.
The Urids are so named because they seem to radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper). Their parent is the 8P/Tuttle comet. They started Dec. 13 and continue through Dec. 24.
Producing only five to 10 meteors an hour, the Urids are a comparatively minor meteor shower but it’s always fun to “catch” a meteor.
The Geminids, among the best meteor sky shows of the year, peak Dec. 13-14 in 2022.
Named for the constellation Gemini because the meteors seem to radiate from near its star, Castor, a twin to Pollux, this meteor shower historically hurtles between 100 and 150 fireballs across the sky per hour at its peak. They are traveling at 22 miles per second.
With clear weather and a moon phase that doesn’t make the sky too bright, 120 meteors per hour may be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to the constellation’s position, fewer than half that number are spotted in the Southern Hemisphere.
In 2022, the moon will be wanning gibbous during the Geminids peak. The moon was full Dec. 7-9. But these meteors are bright so chances are you will “catch” at least a few “falling stars.” Find more info at TimeandDate.
The Geminids are different from typical meteor showers. They don’t radiate from a comet but from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. You can pick up more information on asteroids and comets at Astronomical terms and definitions.
NASA experts say just look at the sky instead of trying to find the constellation Gemini because meteors have shorter trails near their radiant so are harder to spot.
When to watch.
Where warm clothing because you may be outside awhile until your eyes adjust to the sky and atmosphere. Choose to go out when Gemini is above the horizon but before the moon rises or later around 2 a.m. even though moonlight might make them harder to find. Find a spot away from lights or away from moonlight such as the shade of a tree.
You don’t have to call a government agency or a news station if you see a fireball overhead. It’s not a trick. It’s a treat. The Taurid meteors are charging across the sky.
However, you might want to notify the American Meteor Society because that organization does keep track of fireball sightings and does want to hear about them.
Indeed, a sighting is likely in 2022 because AMS says the Taurids last great meteor production was in 2015. Taurids’ history has shown that its abundant output tends to happen every seven years.
BTW, other years it’s not so great. So, the time span might be why you hadn’t heard about the Taurids before.
The meteors seem to emanate from constellation Taurus the Bull (its radiant) in two streams, the North and South Taurids. In 2022, South peaks Nov. 4-5 with North peaking Nov. 11-13. Taurus the Bull is near the constellation Orion.
A better watching is arguably period now through Halloween and Day of the Dead. The moon cycle reaches its full stage Nov. 8 so its growing illumination period may make it harder to catch a fireball on Nov. 5. But fireballs, like their name, are bright, so maybe try the peak date.
The Taurids already started Sept. 10 and continue through Nov. 20, 2022. As with most other meteor events, they happen when Earth passes through a stream of cometary debris. With the Taurids that is what Comet 2P-Encke, the parent comet, leaves behind, according to NASA.
NASA notes that unlike many comets, 2P-Encke is not named for its discoverer, Pierre F. A. Mechain, but for Johann Franz Encke who calculated its orbit. The letter P means it is a periodic comet.
Whatever dates you venture out to see a Taurid meteor, the best time is after midnight when the radiant is high. But dress warmly and be prepared to wait. Best watching technique is to scan the skies instead of focusing on the Taurus radiant.
Look up after midnight to watch what is among the year’s best meteor shower.
Those meteors zooming across the sky at about 41 miles per second are the Orionids. Although they started the end of September and go through mid-November the best time to “catch a falling star” as the song goes, is during the shower’s peak of Oct. 21 when you may see between 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
Fortunately, the moon will be merely a slim wanning crescent during the peak date so moonlight won’t be a factor to see the sky show. Because the Orionids often leave bright trains and show-off as bright fireballs, sky watchers are likely to be rewarded with a meteor or two.
Where they seem to come from is called the Radiant so with a name like Orionids, expect to look towards the Club of the Orion the Hunter constellation. Look north of Orion’s bright Betelgeuse star.
The Parent (origination) of the Orionids is 1P/Halley. Right, the comet. These meteors are comet debris. Dust of Halley’s Comet produce the Eta Aquarids in May, usually best seen in the southern hemisphere, and the Orionids which are better, brighter and can be seen in both hemispheres in mid-October.
Note: Dress warmly and be patient. The meteor show goes from midnight until dawn.
Circle Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 on the calendar or make a note on the smart phone for a double sky phenomenon. But one sky event may make it hard to see the other.
The Perseids, arguably the best meteor shower of the year, already started July 17 but continues through Aug. 24. It peaks Aug. 12-13 with from 50 to 100 meteors zooming across the sky per hour.
The meteors are debris from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle whose radiant is the Perseus constellation in the northeastern sky. The greatest number of meteors will be visible after the radiant rises, according to Earth Sky. The radiant rises around 11 p.m. CT, nearly due northeast in Perseus so the Perseids are best viewed from midnight to sunrise.
Perseus was the Greek mythological hero who stopped (beheaded) Medusa the Gorgon (Maybe you’ve seen the TV ad where Medusa enters a bar and turns guys to stone).
The problem: August’s full moon, glowing in the sky Aug. 11-13 is the fourth and last supermoon of 2022. As a supermoon whose orbit brings it closer to earth than most moons come the rest of the year, it looks larger and brighter than usual. That large illumination makes it harder to spot meteors.
“Sadly, this year’s Perseids peak will see the worst possible circumstances for spotters,” said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, who leads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Most of us in North America would normally see 50 or 60 meteors per hour,” he said, “but this year, during the normal peak, the full Moon will reduce that to 10-20 per hour at best,” said Cooke.
Aptly named, at least for 2022’s August Supermoon, this full moon is called the Sturgeon Moon after the giant fish found in the Great Lakes that is often caught the last month of summer. A good source for full moon names is The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The sturgeon is considered a “living fossil” for its beginnings about 136 million years ago.
(For information on when to watch for the Perseids in your area visit Time and Date.)