2018 Meteor Showers

Meteor Shower season in upon us once again so I compiled this list to (hopefully) aid you in planning your nights. I begin with Moon basics and five basic, frequently asked questions and the list of meteor showers is below that.

MOON: For each shower, I also offer a Moon impact rating from NULL, MODERATE, SIGNIFICANT and MAXIMUM based on its age and phase. Remember; New through 1st Quarter Moons rarely cause any trouble as they set early. Full through Last Quarter really cause the heartache as they are up all night and or rise late, thus impact pre-dawn peak viewing times.

HOW MANY WILL I SEE?: Keep in mind predictions are just that, predictions based of past totals, performance and future forecasts so just because it says “X” per-hour you have to understand that meteor shower prediction is about as fickle as weather prediction. Also when you see “X” per-hour, that’s DARK SKY totals with the radiant point directly overhead, 360 degree horizons and including faint meteors, so your totals (like mine) will probably be half that if you’re viewing from your back yard and are within 30 min or so of a medium sized city. Probably half that if the moon is out and larger than a small, few day young or old crescent.

WHEN DO I LOOK?: Peak night is usually a given night and next morning with the “next morning” being the absolute best time to watch. In fact the closer to morning twilight you can get, the better…..here’s why. If you view the solar system from the “top” planets orbit the Sun in a counter clockwise motion and we also rotate in a counter clockwise motion. That means just before sunrise the Earth is pointed in the direction of travel of the Earth itself and meteors are mere “bugs (Or if you prefer; “snowflakes”) hitting the windshield” of Spaceship Earth.

WHERE DO I LOOK?: You will want to look in the direction of the radiant point of the shower for best results. The radiant point is, well, where it appears that the meteors radiate from and is usually associated with the constellation they are named after. For example; the radiant point for the Orionids is the constellation of Orion. Just above his head or over his shoulders actually. Also the higher that the radiant point gets the better observing may become because meteors radiate out in all directions and most aren’t visible until they’re approximately 30 degrees or so from the radiant point.

WHAT DO I NEED?: Well, as for seeing them….nothing. The most important things you need are a clear, dark sky, preferably with a nice wide open horizon and moon free. In fact you really can’t use binoculars or telescopes for meteor showers because the streak is too long and you won’t be able to physically move your equipment into position in less than a second anyway. Also just as a quick reference; 1st quarter moon rises around noon, is high overhead around sunset and sets around midnight. Full moon rises around sunset is up all night (usually highest around midnight) and sets with sunrise. 3rd (last) quarter moon rises around midnight is high overhead around sunrise and sets around noon. These aren’t exact but pretty good gages to use when trying to figure out when the moon will show up and or go away.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: are weather and subsequently how you plan to dress for that weather. Red flashlights will help save your eyes because dark adaptation is a key in picking out the faint streaks you won’t be able to see after you just check your cell phone. Besides that, good people, chair, blankets, bug spray, food and try not to lie on any ant hills.

 

Quadrantids (January)

Active Dates: Jan 1-10, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of January 3 and the morning of January 4

Hourly Rate: Upwards of 50 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the extinct constellation of Quadrans Muralis just above Bootes

Moon Impact: MAXIMUM: Waning Gibbous 97% illuminated

Velocity: 26 mi/sec

Parent Body: Asteroid 2003 EH (5.5 year orbit). This and December’s Geminids are the years only non-comet generated meteor showers

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20180104_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/quadrantids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/1/3/2018

 

Lyrids (April)

Active Dates: Apr 16-25, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of April 22 and the morning of April 23

Hourly Rate: Approximately 20 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Lyra

Moon Impact: MODERATE: First Quarter 25% illuminated and will set around midnight

Velocity: 30 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher (415 year orbit)

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20180423_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/lyrids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/04/22/2018

 

Eta Aquarids (April/May)

Active Dates: Apr 15-May 28, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of May 5 and the morning of May 6

Hourly Rate: Approximately 50 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Aquarius

Moon Impact: SIGNIFICANT: Waning gibbous 74% illuminated

Velocity: 42 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 1P (Halley) or “Halley’s Comet” (76 year orbit)

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Southern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20180506_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/eta-aquarids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/05/05/2018

 

Delta Aquarids (July/August)

Active Dates: Jul 21-Aug 23, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of July 28 and the morning of July 29

Hourly Rate: Approximately 20 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Aquarius

Moon Impact: MAXIMUM: Full Moon 100% illuminated

Velocity: 26 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 96P/Machholz

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Southern

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/07/28/2018

 

Perseids (July/August)

Active Dates: Jul 15-Aug 25, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Aug 09 through the morning of Aug 13

Hourly Rate: Approximately 75 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Perseus

Moon Impact: NULL: Waning crescent 06% illuminated

Velocity: 37 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20180813_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/perseid.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/08/09/2018

 

Draconids (October/November)

Active Dates: Oct 4-Nov 12, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Oct 08 and the morning of Oct 09

Hourly Rate: Approximately 25 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Draco

Moon Impact: NULL: Waxing crescent 1% illuminated

Velocity: 41 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/draconid.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/10/08/2018

 

Orionids (October/November)

Active Dates: Oct 4-Nov 12, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Oct 20 and the morning of Oct 21

Hourly Rate: Approximately 25 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Orion

Moon Impact: MAXIMUM: Waxing gibbous 83% illuminated

Velocity: 41 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 1P/Halley or “Halley’s Comet”

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20181021_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/orionid.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/10/20/2018

 

Southern Taurids (September/November)

Active Dates: Sep 20-Nov 25, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Nov 5 and the morning of Nov 6

Hourly Rate: Approximately 10 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Taurus

Moon Impact: NULL: Waxing crescent 6% illuminated

Velocity: 17 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 2P/Encke

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20181105_10_100

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/11/05/2018

 

Leonids (November)

Active Dates: Nov 5 -Nov 30, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Nov 17 and the morning of Nov 18

Hourly Rate: Approximately 15 per hour

Radiant Point: In the general direction of the constellation Leo

Moon Impact: NULL: New moon

Velocity: 44 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20181118_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/leonids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/11/17/2018

 

Geminids (December)

Active Dates: Dec 4-Dec 16, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Dec 13 and the morning of Dec 14

Hourly Rate: Upwards of 100 per hour

Radiant Point: Constellation Gemini

Moon Impact: NULL: Waxing crescent 32% illuminated

Velocity: 22 mi/sec

Parent Body: Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The Geminids and January’s Quadrantids are the only two major meteor showers not created by a comet

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20181214_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/geminids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/12/13/2018

 

Ursids (December)

Active Dates: Dec 17-Dec 28, 2018

Peak Viewing: Night of Dec 23 and the morning of Dec 24

Hourly Rate: Approximately 10 per hour with possible outbursts of 25+ per hour

Radiant Point: Constellation Ursa Major or Big Dipper asterism

Moon Impact: MAXIMUM: Waning gibbous 99% illuminated

Velocity: 20 mi/sec

Parent Body: Comet 8P/Tuttle

Best Viewing Hemisphere: Northern

https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20181222_10_100

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/ursids.html

http://www.moongiant.com/phase/12/23/2018

 

Data & Resource Links:

U.S. Naval Observatory: Rise & Set Times for Major Planetary Bodies: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/mrst.php

Moon Phase Calculator: http://www.moonpage.com/index.html

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