5 meteor showers that will sparkle in the night sky this fall
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
Autumn is meteor shower season across the Northern Hemisphere with the season’s longer nights benefiting those trying to spot a few shooting stars.
The upcoming months feature many minor to moderate meteor showers, but concludes with the Geminids, which features hundreds of multi-colored meteors every night.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left behind by a comet. The debris is largely just grains of dust that burn brightly when entering the planet’s atmosphere.
Here are the top five meteor showers to look for this fall:
1. Draconids: 5-10 meteors/hour
Peak night: Oct. 8-9
The first meteor shower of the season peaks during the first half of October, and while it isn’t considered a major shower, it’s a good one for early-night stargazers.
Most meteor showers are best viewed after midnight; however, the Draconids is one of the few meteor showers that is best during the evening. This is a good shower for younger stargazers, especially since the shower peaks on a school night.
This year will be an excellent year for viewing the Draconids as it peaks right before the new moon, meaning there will be minimal natural light pollution, allowing the dimmer meteors to be seen.
2. Orionids — 20 meteors/hour
Peak night: Oct. 21-22
The Orionid meteor shower is typically one of the best meteor showers of the season and is made up of debris from the famous Halley’s Comet.
“In a normal year, the Orionids produce 20-25 shower members at maximum,” the American Meteor Society (AMS) said.
In 2018, the shower peaks a few days before the full moon. This means that the light from the nearly full moon will make it difficult to spot many of the dimmer meteors.
The best opportunity to view the shower will be a small window between moonset, around 4 a.m. local time, and when the morning twilight begins.
3. Northern Taurids — 5 meteors/hour
Peak night: Nov. 11-12
Although the Northern Taurids meteor shower may be overlooked since it only brings around five meteors an hour, it can bring some spectacular fireballs that light up the entire sky.
People heading out to view the Taurids will need to bring some patience as there may be long gaps in between meteors, but this meteor shower is known for featuring a high number of fireballs. Fireballs are incredibly bright meteors that glow for several seconds.
The Northern Taurids also overlaps with another meteor shower, the Southern Taurids, which can bring a few extra shooting stars to the sky for onlookers.
4. Leonids — 10-20 meteors/hour
Peak night: Nov. 17-18
People spending some time outside the weekend before Thanksgiving should take a look at the night sky as the Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak.
The moon may hinder early-night observers, but dimmer meteors will become visible after 2 a.m. local time once the moon sets.
“This shower has turned into a raging meteor storm in the past. In fact, the Leonids have produced the most impressive shows in recorded history,“ AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel said.
However, a meteor storm is not expected this year. Meteor storms from the Leonids typically occur every 33 years, with the most recent being in 2001.
“[In 2001] I observed what seemed to be several meteors at once in the sky all night long, but the 2001 show pales in comparison to 1966 and 1833,” Samuhel said.
5. Geminids — 120+ meteors/hour
Peak night: Dec. 13-14
Autumn draws to a close with one of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the entire year.
The Geminids boasts an impressive 120 meteors an hour, but can occasionally exceed this. In 2017, observers documented as many as 160 meteors an hour at its peak.
Not only are the Geminids known for its impressive numbers, but also the colors.
“The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored,” the AMS said.
Meteors will begin to streak across the sky shortly after nightfall and will gradually increase in intensity as the night progresses, reaching the peak after 2 a.m. local time.
People planning to stay up late to view the year’s most popular meteor shower may have to bundle up as chilly winter weather typically settles in across much of the United States by mid-December.
Enduring a cold night under the stars may be worth it for some observers as the Geminids will be one of the last meteor showers until late April.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - March 23, 2019, 6:09:18 AM EDT
Showers and thunderstorms that may disrupt travel, dampen outdoor plans and become locally heavy and gusty will sweep through the southern United States early next week.
Weather News - March 22, 2019, 3:21:07 PM EDT
A lunar rainbow, one of the rarest types of rainbows, appeared during the super worm moon earlier this week.
Weather News - March 22, 2019, 12:42:06 PM EDT
The colorful festival of Holi celebrated by the Hindu community marks the beginning of spring.
In case you missed it: Pence assures Midwest flood victims as damage tops $1 billion; 50,000 visitors overtake California town to see vibrant superbloom
Weather News - March 22, 2019, 11:39:12 AM EDT
Flooding in the Midwest has put entire towns underwater and forced thousands to abandon their homes while a cyclone in southern Africa became one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region in decades.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica to inundate Australia's Pilbara Coast with life-threatening flooding
Weather News - March 23, 2019, 2:58:13 AM EDT
Lives and property will be in severe peril later this weekend and early next week along the northwestern coastline of Western Australia as Severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica slows down and unloads extreme rainfall.
Weather News - March 23, 2019, 5:20:17 AM EDT
A storm forecast to spread rain from the Mississippi Valley on Sunday to the Atlantic coast on Monday may bring a brief period of snow to parts of the Great Lakes and interior Northeast early next week.
Australia faces a dual severe tropical cyclone strike this weekend starting with Trevor in the Northern Territory
Weather News - March 23, 2019, 5:20:45 AM EDT
As Veronica threatens to cause a flood disaster in northwestern Australia, the dangers to lives and property are expected to expand well away from where Severe Tropical Cyclone Trevor made landfall on Australia's Northern Territory early this weekend.
Weather News - March 22, 2019, 12:24:17 PM EDT
The winter of 2018-2019 will go down in the record books for being the wettest on record due to relentless rain and snow, so AccuWeather ranked the cities that were buried under the most snow this winter.