Meteors are basically dust and rocks that float at thousands of miles per hour through our solar system. On their way, if they strike the earth’s atmosphere, they burn up and make a long streak across the sky. Sometimes earth encounters them in large numbers making Meteor showers. Meteor showers are formed by debris from comets or asteroids and they can be seen several times throughout the year. They are named after the constellations from which they appear like Leonids, Orionids, etc. Meteor counts are fun projects for sky lovers and amateur astronomers. Meteor showers occur too fast most of the time. However, some showers can last long for at least one hour. If you want to see it with your telescope, you have to know the time when of the year the earth passes through the debris field of a comet or asteroid. You will notice that meteor showers occur at around the same time every year.
Quick Guide to Observe Meteor Shower
Use astronomy apps like Meteoractive or similar to learn where and when to search for meteor showers in the sky. Examine the position in the sky of the constellation to which the alleged meteor shower belongs. The most brilliant celestial body is the meteor shower. With your unaided eye, you’ll be able to see it far away. Use a low-magnification eyepiece and double-check the alignment of your telescope. Scan the meteor shower with the telescope. Look up the moon’s phase on that particular night. The visibility of a meteor shower can be hampered by the moon’s brightness. The ideal time to see the shower is on a moonless night. Bright meteors typically appear after midnight. It is possible to witness the breathtaking sights of meteor showers using small telescopes, such as those with an aperture of four to six inches. Use the lowest magnification when viewing the meteor shower to acquire a wide field of view and avoid missing any meteors.
Preparation: To see the Meteor Shower Choose a Meteor Activity App.
To see the meteor shower, you have to make sure there is a possibility to occur this event in the sky. Many apps like Meteoractive use the latest cutting-edge technology to find out how many meteors can be seen at your given time. It also takes your geographical location automatically from your phone, meteoroid stream orbits, light pollution, and even the moon interference to suggest you the most eye-catching meteor events for you.
How to find a Meteor Shower?
- Use astronomy apps like Meteoractive or similar to learn the position of the Meteor Shower on the observation day.
- Check the constellation the suspected meteor shower belongs.
- Make sure your telescope is well-aligned and use a low magnification eyepiece.
What is the best time to observe a Meteor Shower?
The table below shows when you can find a meteor shower throughout the year with their constellation and period of activity.
|Meteor shower||Parent object||Period of activity||Zenith hourly rate (ZHR)||Moon illumination (%)||Peak|
|Lyrids||Comet Thatcher||Apr. 15-29||18||67||Apr. 21-22|
|Eta Aquarids||Halley’s Comet||Apr. 15 to May. 27||40||15||May 4-5|
|Tau Herculids||73P/Schwassman-Wachmann||TBC||TBC||0||May 30-31 (possible peak)|
|Perseids||109P/Swift-Tuttle||Jul 14 to Sep 1||100||100||Aug. 11-12|
|Orionids||Halley’s Comet||Sept 26 to Nov. 22||20||21||Oct. 20-21|
|Northern Taurids||2P/Encke||Oct 13 to Dec 2||5||88||Nov. 11-12|
|Leonids||55P/Tempel-Tuttle||Nov 3 to Dec 2||15||36||Nov. 17-18|
|Geminids||3200 Phaethon||Nov 19 to Dec 24||140||72||Dec. 13-14|
4 Tips to observe Meteor Shower in the best way
- Check the phase of the moon on that night. The brightness of the moon can hamper the view of a meteor shower. Moonless night is the best time to observe the shower.
- Though the radiant point of a meteor shower is the ideal direction to face, keep in mind that some meteors may appear somewhere else in the sky.
- Most of the time, bright meteors appear after midnight.
- Use the lowest magnification to get the widest field of view. If you want to see a specific portion with more detail, magnify your telescope only to see that.
What can you see on Meteor Shower with a telescope?
Photo: Meteor Shower (Ref: twimg)
- Shooting stars.
- Sometimes brighter meteors leave a smoky trail behind that can last some seconds. Large debris can create large fireballs anytime known as a bolide.
- Best view of the meteor showers is the colorful ones that happen for the metal present in them. Geminis is well known for this that produces colorful meteors including yellow (iron) and orange (sodium).
Major Meteor Showers
Below is a list of major meteor showers:
Associated with the near-Earth asteroid 2003 EH 1, the Quadrantids display 40 to 100 meteors per hour.
The radiant of the Lyrids lies between the constellations Hercules and Lyra. This medium-strength shower produces 10-20 bright and fast meteors per hour with fireballs sometimes.
The Eta Aquarids
The radiant of The Eta Aquarids is located in the Y-shaped asterism in the constellation Aquarius. Its parent comet is 1 P/Halley. It is a strong meteor shower though do not produce a lot of fireballs.
The Southern Delta Aquarids
The Southern Delta Aquarids can be seen the best from the southern hemisphere with 15 to 20 meteors per hour. Its parent comet is thought to be 96 P/Machholz.
The most popular meteor shower The Perseids is linked to a comet ( 109 P/Swift-Tuttle). The radiant is from the constellation Perseus. It produces a lot of vapor trails.
The Draconids can be best seen in the early evening. It is also known as the Giacobinids. Though it is a minor meteor shower and produces ten meteors per hour on average, it can make a huge meteor storm. In 1933 and 1946 it produced more than 5000 meteors per hour. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco the Dragon and its parent comet is 21 P/Giacobini-Zinner.
The Orionids is a minor meteor shower producing 22-25 meteors per hour. The radiant will be near the constellation Orion the Hunter, though the meteors can appear almost everywhere in the sky. This meteor shower is produced from the debris of Halley’s Comet.
The Taurids can produce fireballs though it is a minor meteor shower making 5-10 meteors per hour. The southern shower is produced by debris from Comet 2 P Encke while the northern stream is made by debris from Asteroid 2004 TG 10. The radiant will be near the constellation Taurus the Bull though the meteors can appear from anywhere in the sky.
The Leonids is an average meteor shower though once every 33 years it reaches its cyclonic peak when it can shower thousands of meteors. The most well-known “Great Meteor Storm” occurred in 1833 and in 1966. The Earth runs directly into the debris field of the Tempel-Tuttle comet that makes this great storm happen. The radiant point will be near the constellation Leo the Lion though meteors can appear from anywhere in the sky.
The Geminids can shower 50 to 100 meteors per hour. It will radiate from the constellation Gemini, the Twins.
What telescope to see Meteor Shower?
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ, Vanos Stellina Observation Station & Hybrid Telescope, and Celestron Astro Fi 102 are great telescopes to see Meteor Showers. A list of telescopes to see Meteor Showers has more telescope options that can see Meteor Shower very clearly.
What size telescope to see Meteor Showers?
Small telescopes with a small aperture for example four to six inches are enough to see the amazing views of the meteor showers.
What magnification is required to see Meteor Shower?
To view the meteor shower, use the lowest magnification possible so that you get a wide field of view and do not miss the meteors.
Enjoying Meteor Shower? Here are other things to see with a telescope.
No doubt a Meteor Shower on a dark night is a fantastic view. However, the sky is full of millions of amazing objects. Viewing Asteroids Through A Telescope can guide you to find asteroids. Moreover, you can also find many galaxies following the article Viewing GAlaxies Through A Telescope You can also see the planets of our solar system, binary stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies through the same telescope you use to see the Meteor Shower. A list of things to see with a telescope can show you how to find the other night sky gems in the dark sky.