Meteor showers are beautiful shows put on by nature. There are several coming up in the next few months, and all you need for viewing them is the know-how for figuring out the best times and locations for viewing, which we’ve detailed below. And maybe a comfy seat.
Where to Watch Meteor Showers
While it’s possible to watch a meteor shower from your backyard, you’ll be able to see things more clearly from a super-dark viewing area. You can find up-to-date dark sky maps that’ll show you the light pollution in your city, and the best night-sky viewing areas near you on sites like DarkSiteFinder or the International Dark Sky Places conservation program. As a general rule, these places are far away from bright cities in wide open areas or at higher elevations, and are also great places for stargazing.
Before heading out, double-check the shower’s active dates and when it’s expected to peak. This gives you the best chance of seeing more meteors per hour than at any other time. Make sure you adjust for your time zone, as well, and note the moon’s current cycle—a certified Dark Sky Place won’t matter much if there’s a full moon that night.
What Gear Should You Bring with?
Once you’ve found a good viewing area, all you really need to bring is your enthusiasm and some creature comforts like blankets, chairs, and some coffee in a thermos (to keep you warm and awake, of course). You can bring binoculars or even a telescope, but those limit your field of view and might cause you to miss the show. If you’ve got a good camera and a tripod, however, you could bring those with and snap a few photos or create a timelapse. The newest Google Pixel phones are capable of shooting astrophotography, so they should allow you to grab some excellent photos of the night sky.
Be sure to bake about 30-45 minutes into your schedule for letting your eyes adjust to the dark. If you absolutely need some light, make sure it’s red light, which is bright enough to illuminate your surroundings without disrupting your dark-adjusted eyes. This means you’ll also need to put your smartphone away!
When Are the Upcoming Showers?
Though we’re in the last few months of 2020, there are still a few meteor showers you can catch before the end of the year. Be sure to mark your calendar!
This shower is active between October 6-10, and peaks on October 7. This shower is easier to view in the late evening, rather than after midnight like most others. While it’s usually lackluster with only a handful of meteors per hour, it occasionally rises up like its namesake dragon and produces hundreds in a single hour.
These are active from October 2 to November 7, and peak around October 21-22. This group of meteors originates from Halley’s comet, which we won’t be able to see again until 2061.
This shower is active from November 6-30, and peaks around November 16-17, and is one of the weaker annual showers. Every 33 years or so, however, it becomes a meteor storm. During its last storm in 2001, thousands of meteors streaked across Earth’s atmosphere in just a short 15-minute period.
These are active from December 4-17, and peak around December 13-14. It’s one of the most popular and prolific shows of the year, with approximately 120 visible meteors per hour. We believe these meteors, along with January’s Quadrantids, were once part of an asteroid (3200 Phaethon) rather than a comet like most others.
The final meteor shower of the year is active from December 17-26, and peaks around December 22-23. Though it isn’t as exciting as The Geminids with just 10-20 visible meteors per hour, it’s a perfect way to ring in the Winter Solstice. These meteors are visible around their namesake constellation—Ursa Minor—and are thought to originate from Comet 8P/Tuttle.