Here are some future star-gazing events to pencil into your calendar if you, like me, love looking at the night sky to see meteors and fireballs!
1. Southern Delta Aquariids (SDA)
Active from July 12th to August 23rd, 2020
The Delta Aquariids are another strong shower best seen from the southern tropics. North of the equator the radiant is located lower in the southern sky and therefore rates are less than seen from further south. These meteors produce good rates for a week centered on the night of maximum. These are usually faint meteors that lack both persistent trains and fireballs.
Next Peak – The Southern delta Aquariids will next peak on the Jul 28-29, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 66.45% full.
2. Alpha Capricornids (CAP)
Active from July 3rd to August 15th, 2020 The Alpha Capricornids are active from July 3 through August 15 with a “plateau-like” maximum centered on July 30. This shower is not very strong and rarely produces in excess of five shower members per hour. But what is notable about this shower is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period. And this shower is seen equally well on either side of the equator.
Shower details – Radiant: 20:28 -10.2° – ZHR: 5 – Velocity: 15 miles/sec (slow – 24km/sec) – Parent Object: 169P/NEAT
Next Peak – The Alpha Capricornids will next peak on the night of Jul 28-29, 2020. On this night, the moon will be 66.45% full.
3. Perseids (PER)
Active from July 17th to August 26th, 2020 The Perseids are the most popular meteor shower as they peak on warm August nights when seen from the northern hemisphere. The Perseids are active from July 17 to August 24. They reach a strong maximum on August 12 or 13, depending on the year. Normal rates seen from rural locations range from 50-75 shower members per hour at maximum.The Perseids are particles released from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle during its numerous returns to the inner solar system. They are called Perseids since the radiant (the area of the sky where the meteors seem to originate) is located near the prominent constellation of Perseus the hero, when at maximum activity.
Shower details – Radiant: 03:12 +57.6° – ZHR: 100 – Velocity: 37 miles/sec (swift – 60km/sec) – Parent Object: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Next Peak – The Perseids will next peak on the Aug 11-12, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 47.13% full.
4. Orionids (ORI)
Active from October 2nd to November 7th, 2020 The Orionids are a medium strength shower that sometimes reaches high strength activity. In a normal year the Orionids produce 10-20 shower members at maximum. In exceptional years, such as 2006-2009, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids (50-75 per hour). Recent displays have produced low to average displays of this shower.
Shower details – Radiant: 06:20 +15.5° – ZHR: 20 – Velocity: 41 miles/sec (swift – 67km/sec) – Parent Object: 1P/Halley
Next Peak – The Orionids will next peak on the Oct 20-21, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 23.49% full.
5. Southern Taurids (STA)
Active from September 10th to November 20th, 2020 The Southern Taurids are a long-lasting shower that shows several minor peaks during its activity period. The shower is active for more than two months but rarely produces more than five shower members per hour, even at maximum activity. The Taurids (both branches) are rich in fireballs and are often responsible for increased number of fireball reports from September through November.
Shower details – Radiant: 03:12 +12.8° – ZHR: 5 – Velocity: 16.5 miles/sec (slow – 26.6km/sec) – Parent Object: 2P/Encke
Next Peak – The Southern Taurids will next peak on the Oct 29-30, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 97.63% full.
6. Northern Taurids (NTA)
Active from October 20th to December 10th, 2020. This shower is much like the Southern Taurids, just active a bit later in the year. When the two showers are active simultaneously in late October and early November, there is sometimes an notable increase in the fireball activity. There seems to be a seven year periodicity with these fireballs. 2008 and 2015 both produced remarkable fireball activity.
Shower details – Radiant: 03:52 +22.7° – ZHR: 5 – Velocity: 18 miles/sec (medium – 30km/sec) – Parent Object: 2P/Encke
Next Peak – The Northern Taurids will next peak on the Nov 11-12, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 14.86% full.
7. Leonids (LEO)
Active from November 6th to November 30th, 2020 The Leonids are best known for producing meteor storms in the years of 1833, 1866, 1966, 1999, and 2001. These outbursts of meteor activity are best seen when the parent object, Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, is near perihelion (its closest approach to the sun). But it is not the fresh material we see from the comet, but rather debris from earlier returns that also happen to be most dense at the same time.
Unfortunately it appears that the earth will not encounter any dense clouds of debris until 2099. Therefore when the comet returns in 2031 and 2064, there will be no meteor storms, but perhaps several good displays of Leonid activity when rates are in excess of 100 per hour. The best we can hope for now until the year 2030 is peaks of around 15 shower members per hour and perhaps an occasional weak outburst when the earth passes near a debris trail. The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains.
Shower details – Radiant: 10:08 +21.6° – ZHR: 15 – Velocity: 44 miles/sec (swift – 71km/sec) – Parent Object: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Next Peak – The Leonids will next peak on the Nov 16-17, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 4.63% full.
7. Geminids (GEM)
Active from December 4th to December 17th, 2020 the Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year and meteor enthusiasts are certain to circle December 13 and 14 on their calendars.
This is the one major shower that provides good activity prior to midnight in the northern hemisphere especially as the constellation of Gemini is well placed from late evening onward in the north. The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored. Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen. These meteors are also seen in the southern hemisphere, but only during the middle of the night and at a reduced rate.
Shower details – Radiant: 07:28 +32.2° – ZHR: 150 – Velocity: 22 miles/sec (medium – 35km/sec) – Parent Object: 3200 Phaethon (asteroid)
Next Peak – The Geminids will next peak on the Dec 13-14, 2020 night. On this night, the moon will be 0.66% full.
8. Ursids (URS)
Active from December 17th to December 26th, 2020 The Ursids are often neglected due to the fact it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are much less than the Geminds, which peaks just a week before the Ursids. Observers will normally see 5-10 Ursids per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity. There have been occasional outbursts when rates have exceeded 25 per hour. These outbursts appear unrelated to the perihelion dates of comet 8P/Tuttle. This shower is strictly a northern hemisphere event as the radiant fails to clear the horizon or does so simultaneously with the start of morning twilight as seen from the southern tropics.
Shower details – Radiant: 14:28 +74.8° – ZHR: 10 – Velocity: 20 miles/sec (medium – 32km/sec) –
This gives you loads of dates to pencil into your calendar. And while you are at it, have a look at this!
I do hope you enjoy my series about Things that Amaze me. Remember, if you want to learn more about Astronomy there’s a great series on ABCiview with Julia Zemiro and Brian Cox. Link here.
If you’d like to get some easy reading about the night sky here’s a link to a beginners guide to finding stars and planets.
Watch this interactive video for more on what you can see and when. This is totally mind blowing. I love how many events are happening in our night skies – much more fun than staring at the TV! Checkout https://www.meteorshowers.org.
Please let me know what you’ve seen looking at the night sky. If you miss reading about my students and my glass projects you can always go here for a read. Glass stuff will be back soon! Meanwhile stay safe, and enjoy the night skies.