Vol.1, No.6

How to watch a meteor shower

Read this instructive article to find out how you can watch an amazing meteor shower right in your own back yard!

Space debris and meteors
Photo Credit: NASA
You've probably seen a meteor in the night sky at some time. Another name for a meteor is a "shooting star." A meteor is the byproduct of a meteoroid. When a meteoroid, which is a chunk

of an asteroid or a comet, hurtles into the Earth's atmosphere, a meteor, or a flash of bright light, can be seen in the sky. (An asteroid is actually a small planetoid that is located between Mars and Jupiter.)

Even though a meteor looks to be a large object in space, it usually is only about the size of a grain of sand. What causes the flash of bright light is the high rate of speed that it's traveling at when it hits the atmosphere. A meteor's speed can range from 25,000 to 160,000 miles per hour!

A meteor shower is caused moreso by a comet. A comet is a celestial aggregation that moves in a circular pattern around the sun. Every time a comet makes its rounds, it loses a great amount of its particles. These particles spread out to form a stream of meteoroids. Then, anytime that the orbit of the Earth and the orbit of the comet overlap at some point, our planet passes through the meteoroid shower.

If you want to watch a meteor shower some time, you'll need to find a location where you have a clear view of the night sky. Try to find a location that is completely dark and is away from lights.

Since you'll probably get tired of bending your head back to watch the night sky, you should place a blanket on the ground so you can lie down. Or, you can use a chaise lounge to lie back on.

The best time to see a meteor shower, is during the hour or so right before the sun rises in the morning. This is because the morning side of the Earth happens upon more meteoroids than the evening side does.

You can see shambolic meteor showers most any night of the year. (Historically, November is the month that gives the best light shows.) However, there are ten major meteor showers that occur at approximately the same time every calendar year.

These meteor showers are Quadrantids, which can be seen from January 3rd to 4th; April Lyrids, which can be seen from April 21st to 22nd; Eta Aquarids, which can be seen from May 4th to 5th;

Delta Aquarids, which is visible on July 28th and 29th; Perseids, which can be seen from August 12th to the 13th; Orionids, which is visible from October 21st to 22nd; Taurids, which can be seen from November 3rd to the 13th; Leonids, which can be seen from November 16th to the 17th; Geminids, which is visible on December 13th and 14th; and finally, Ursids, which can be seen in the night sky on December 21st and 22nd.

Meteor showers get their names from the constellation in which their radiant lies at the time the shower is at its peak. Geminid got its name from the Gemini constellation, while Eta Aquarids

can be found located by the star that's named Eta Aquarii, for two examples. Therefore, if you can find the constellations in the sky, then you can know where to watch for their corresponding meteor showers. You can use a map of the stars to locate the constellations.