Spring brings the promise of warmer weather and newly blooming plants. It also marks the beginning of an exciting season of meteor showers and other events, like eclipses and supermoons. We’ve marked all of the upcoming showers and events through the end of summer and shared some stargazing tips.
Table of Contents
- Where to Watch Meteor Showers
- Do You Need to Bring Any Gear?
- The Upcoming Meteor Showers
- Other Upcoming Astronomical Events
- Can’t Get Enough Astronomy?
As we’ve previously mentioned, the best place to watch a meteor shower is in a super-dark viewing area, ideally somewhere out in the country away from light-polluted cities. Sites like the International Dark Sky Places conservation program or DarkSiteFinder can illustrate the areas nearest to your location that are great for stargazing.
Keep in mind that high rates of humidity, smoke, and air pollution will make it more difficult to see meteor showers clearly. You’ll also benefit from finding a high vantage point, rather than somewhere down in a valley. If you live somewhere fairly rural without much light, you’ll probably be able to see these showers with moderate clarity, but we recommend driving somewhere more remote for optimal viewing.
Be sure to verify what time the shower is expected to peak at before heading out, as that will ensure you’ll see the maximum number of meteors per hour. Also note the Moon’s current cycle—not even a dedicated Dark Sky location will do much for you if it’s a full moon.
The great thing about watching meteor showers is that it’s always a low-key event. Aside from a warm jacket and your passion for exploring the cosmos, all you’ll need are creature comforts like blankets, coffee, some good chairs, and maybe even a camera for astrophotography fans. If that’s the case, a good camera and a reliable tripod are all you need; the newest Google Pixel smartphones also have terrific astrophotography capabilities and are much easier to lug around than professional camera gear.
As you’re planning your shower watching party, be sure to tack on an additional 45 minutes to the beginning of your schedule, as your eyes will need time to adjust to the dark. If you do need light, however, make it red light. This is still bright enough to illuminate your area, but it won’t disrupt your dark-adjusted eyes.
Just interested in when the next meteor shower is? We’ve got your back. There are five meteor showers spanning the spring and summer seasons, and the first one is in April.
This shower is active between April 16-30, and it peaks on April 21 (though the Moon that night will be 68% full). You’ll be able to view this shower anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and you’ll get the best views around dawn. Expect 10-20 meteors per hour, mostly without persistent trains and a few possible fireballs. Southern Hemisphere viewers can also see this shower, but with fewer visible meteors.
These are active from April 19 to May 28, and peak the morning of May 5 around 4am local time (with a waning crescent Moon). This shower is ideally viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, though folks in southern states will have a decent view as well, with roughly 40 meteors per hour (though just 10-20 meteors per hour for those in the States). Those living in more northern climes will still have a view but with fewer meteors.
This shower runs from July 12 through August 23, peaking on Jul 28-29. As its name suggests, this is another shower better viewed by those in the Southern Hemisphere. This isn’t the most exciting shower on the list, however, as it will only produce about 15-20 meteors per hour that’ll be faint to begin with, and the Moon will be 74% full.
These are active from July 3 to Aug 15, and will peak the night of July 28-29. Because this shower shares a date with the Southern delta Aquariids, the Moon will still be 74% full, which is a bit of a bummer. It’ll also only produce about 5 meteors per hour. However, the good news is that it’s equally easy to view on either side of the equator, and it produces bright fireballs that are sure to delight everyone.
This is one of the more popular and well-known meteor showers, and it will be on display in the Northern Hemisphere from July 17 through Aug 24. It’ll peak on August 11-12, and the waxing crescent Moon will only be 13% full, so you’ll be able to get a good view of them. You’ll be able to see 50-75 meteors per hour with this one, and the shower is known for having both persistent trains and a high number of fireballs. This shower gains its name as it’s radiant (the point in the sky from which the meteors seem to appear) is located near the Perseus constellation; also, the particles in this shower were released from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
These meteor showers are exciting and all, but they’re not all the night sky has in store for us this year. We can also expect other fascinating events, like some eclipses and all four of this year’s supermoons!
The next supermoon—which is what we call our Moon when it’s at its closest point to Earth in its orbit and looks bigger and brighter than normal—is coming the night of March 28. A supermoon is technically defined as anything the Moon is closer than 360,000 kilometers (223,694 miles) from Earth, and this event only brings the Moon as close as 362,170 kilometers (225,042 miles), so there is some debate about this event actually being called a supermoon, but we’ll count it. It also earns the name “Worm Moon,” as it occurs around the same time earthworms appear as the soil warms and invites birds to feed.
The year’s second supermoon will appear on the night of April 26, and will be 357,615 kilometers (222,212 miles) away from Earth at the closest moment of orbit. It’s called the Pink Moon supermoon as it often corresponds with the springtime blossoming of a wildflower in eastern North America called the Phlox subulata that is nicknamed “moss pink,” though the Moon itself does not gain a pink hue this night.
May 26 is a big night! On this night, you’ll get to see the Super Flower Moon supermoon as well as (see below) a total lunar eclipse. The Moon is at its closest distance of the year during this event at just 357,462 kilometers (221,851 miles) from the Earth, making it the largest supermoon we’ll see all year. Unsurprisingly, this supermoon’s name is representative of all the flowers that are typically in bloom at this point in the year.
After putting on a big show in the May 26 supermoon event (see above), you’ll get a double feature this same night with the subsequent total lunar eclipse. Here, the Moon will pass through Earth’s umbra (conical shadow) and appear as a rusty or blood red color. This eclipse will be readily viewable for anyone through the Pacific Ocean, including parts of Australia, eastern Asia, and western North America.
The June 10 solar eclipse is called a “ring of fire” eclipse, as the Moon won’t entirely block out the sun (thus creating the “night during day” effect). Instead, you’ll still be able to see (with protective eyeglasses, of course) a good portion of the sun’s light, just as you’d be able to see a nickel placed behind a penny. The eclipse will follow a path moving from eastern Russian to the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland, and Canada. Only a partial eclipse will be visible to the northeast United States and Europe.
On June 24, you’ll get to see the final supermoon of the year. It’ll only be 361,558 kilometers (224,652 miles) away from Earth, making it the second smallest. This supermoon earned its adorable name by occurring during the ideal time of year for harvesting wild strawberries.
It’s understandable—we can’t either. If you want to bring more astronomy into your life or into your family’s life, we recommend connecting with your local astronomy club. You can usually find a representative or member in any given college’s physics or astronomy departments, or you can simply use NASA’s website to search for them online.
Astronomy clubs regularly meet up and are usually family friendly. Meetings will vary by club, but you can expect a similar set of activities and perks. These can include using large telescopes (usually much larger than what amateurs typically have access to) to view the stars and other planetary objects, hearing lectures from professionals in the field of astronomy, learning more about (or discussing) relevant topics, meeting other people (young and old alike) who share your interests at social events, and an array of other fun and educational benefits.