Happy New Year! As we head into 2015, meteorologists are often asked about the weather outlook for the year ahead. It's frustrating that the science of meteorology is still so young, long term predictions for rain or snow showers are impossible, but astronomy is a much older science and a lot more predictable, so mark your calendars for this year’s meteor showers! (Don't call them "shooting stars" or you'll make an astronomer angry!)
As always, viewing is best away from city lights, generally after midnight. While the meteors radiate from certain constellations, they are visible anywhere in the sky.
NOW- Jan 10th; peak 3rd-4th - Quadrantids Meteor Shower is an above average shower, with 25 - 40 meteors per hour at its peak. We're already getting reports of them. A nearly full moon will make it tough to see all but the brightest meteors on peak nights, but watch from midnight until dawn; they'll radiate from the constellation Bootes. Quadrantids can produce bright fireballs if you’re away from city lights.April 16-25th peak: 22nd- 23rd - Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, with about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. Watch for these any time after sunset, generally radiating from the constellation Lyra. Like the Quadrantids, the Lyrids can produce fireballs.
April 19th-May 28th, Peak: May 6th, 7th - Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower is an above average shower, produced by dust left behind by Halley's Comet! Expect to see up to 30 meteors per hour during peak days, radiating from the constellation Aquarius. If you're lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere at this time, you could see up to 60 meteors per hour. In both hemispheres, watch for streaks of light but few fireballs. July 21-August 23rd, Peak: July 28th, 29th - Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Aquarius, like the Eta Aquarids. They will be low in the sky and are usually faint without persistent trains or fireballs.
July 13-August 26th: peak August 12th, 13th - Perseids Meteor Shower. This is probably the most well known meteor shower, producing up to 75 meteors per hour at its peak with a large number of bright meteors. With no full moon during the peak nights, this year could offer a great show. They radiate from the constellation Perseus.
October 4-Nov 14th Peak: 21st, 22nd - Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids can produce up to 25 meteors per hour on peak nights. There have been years where over 50 meteors per hour were visible. Orionids are also produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, radiating from the constellation Orion.
October 19 -December 10, Peak November 11th,12th - Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids produce only about 5-10 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Taurus. The Taurids, both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, produce many fireballs.
November 5-30th, peak 17th, 18th - Leonids Meteor Shower produce up to 15 meteors per hour on peak nights, radiating from the constellation Leo, producing bright meteors with a lot of persistent trains.
December 4-16th: peak 13th, 14th - Geminids Meteor Shower. Mark your calendar for this one: the Geminids is the biggest of all the meteor showers, producing up to 120 meteors per hour on peak nights! These meteors show up in different, intense colors, too! The Geminids radiate from the constellation Gemini, they are slow and don't often have persistent trains.
December 17-25rd peaks: 22nd, 23rd - Ursids Meteor Shower produce about 5-10 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Ursa Minor.