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Meteor Showers in 2019: A Complete Stargazing Guide

Meteor Showers in 2019

Our Meteor Shower Calendar will help you experience the magical light show of a meteor shower throughout 2019! Popularly known as shooting stars, meteors are small rocky or metallic debris fragments left over mostly from comets that have passed too close to the Sun. These bodies enter our atmosphere at blistering speeds ranging from 25,000 to 160,000 mph (11 km/sec to 72 km/sec), causing them to gradually disintegrate due to drag, leaving behind a visible tail of vaporizing ice and dirt that once made up the comet's nucleus. As the Earth makes its way around the Sun, it crosses paths with the irregular elongated orbits of these comet debris streams at the same time every year. This makes meteor showers a dependable annual celestial event. A month-by-month guide with information on several major meteor shower events set to occur in 2019 is included below.

From the vantage point of someone on Earth, meteors appear as raining or "showering" streaks of light that all seem to originate from a particular point in the sky known as the radiant. These meteors are not dangerous, however, as most of them are smaller than a grain of sand and finish disintegrating before they ever hit the surface.

Meteor showers are named not for their parent object, but rather for the constellation where their radiant is located. For instance, the famous Perseid meteor shower that occurs every August has its radiant in the constellation of Perseus.

The most important factor in determining meteor shower visibility is the level of light pollution surrounding your viewing area. Minimal light pollution is best. so if you live in a more rural area, you may be able to enjoy the show without leaving your own backyard! The current phase of the Moon is also a consideration. Visibility will be reduced on nights with a full or gibbous Moon.

At this time, there are nearly 100 known meteor showers but some of these haven't been studied thoroughly or are simply too weak to get noticed by anyone but the most dedicated meteor enthusiast. Furthermore, exact predictions regarding when meteors will appear is also impractical due to their famously unreliable nature. Be prepared to spend several hours relaxing under the stars. While you don't need to bring a telescope to view a meteor shower, there are a few items that will make the night more comfortable and enjoyable, including blankets, comfortable chairs, bug spray, and a red flashlight for reading a planisphere or star chart. Temperatures may be low, even in the summer months, so be sure check the forecast and bring extra layers of clothing for good measure. You may also want to bring telescope accessories or a good pair of binoculars in case you or someone in your party want to get a close up view of a particularly bright train left by a bright meteor, or bolide.

January
Shortly following the ringing in of the new year, one of the more prolific meteor showers takes place. Active from December 28 to January 12 with peak activity arriving at about 9 pm EST on the evening of January 3, the Quadrantid meteor shower has the potential to be among the strongest of the year, producing more than 100 meteors per hour at maximum. However, this peak activity does not last very long, only a few hours, and weather conditions are never ideal at this time of the year. That said, the Moon will be a thin crescent during this time and thus won’t interfere with observing. The radiant point is located near the famous Big Dipper in the constellation Boötes. Because the radiant has such a high declination, those viewing at more northerly latitudes in the northern hemisphere will see a greater number of meteors.

Quadrantids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Dec. 28 – Jan. 12
● Peak Date: Jan. 3
● ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate): 120
● Radiant: 15:18 +49.5º
● Velocity: 41 km/sec
● Moon: Waning Crescent
● Parent Object: Possibly asteroid 2003 EH

February
Meteor activity for Northern Hemisphere observers is notoriously sparse in February. The most notable activity comes from the tail end of December's weak Leonis Minorids shower. But while no major showers are expected to occur during this time, people viewing from northern latitudes might still be able to catch a glimpse of a stray fireball. Another name for an extremely bright meteor, fireballs are about as bright as the planet Venus. February is the start of fireball season, a period known for a large increase in fireball sightings. This extends well into April.
For observers south of the equator, there is at least some meteor shower activity. The apex of this activity is represented by the Alpha Centaurids. According to the International Meteor Organization (IMO), the average peak ZHR between 1988 and 2007 for this shower was only 6. However, short bursts of activity lasting only a few hours were recorded in 1974 and 1980 with ZHRs in the 20-30 range. While a similar burst is not predicted for 2019, the Moon will be in a waxing crescent state just a few days removed from a New Moon for ideal dark skies. First observed 50 years ago in 1969, the Alpha Centaurids are a bright shower with a radiant in the constellation Centaurus.

Alpha Centaurids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Jan. 31 – Feb. 20
● Peak Date: Feb. 8
● ZHR: 6
● Radiant: 13:56 -59º
● Velocity: 58 km/sec (36 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing crescent
● Parent Object: Unknown

March
March is another month with very limited meteor activity in the northern skies. As mentioned above, peak fireball season continues through the month, but not much else is happening on the meteor shower front. Rates for sporadic meteors from sources such as the Antihelion are at their lowest in the Northern Hemisphere's spring months. The Antihelion, as the name implies, is located opposite the sun in the sky. Thus when the sun is setting in the west, the Antihelion is rising in the east. These sources have much larger radiants than any particular shower, making it much harder to determine their origin.
From the Southern Hemisphere, the Gamma Normids will take place between February 25 and March 28 with peak activity due for March 15 after midnight. Radiating from the Norma constellation, the Gamma Normids are a weak meteor shower that yields a variable ZHR of approximately 6 at maximum and less than 3 at all other times the shower is active.

Gamma Normids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Feb. 25 – Mar. 28
● Peak Date: Mar. 15
● ZHR: 6
● Radiant: 15:56 -50º
● Velocity: 56 km/sec (35 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing gibbous
● Parent Object: Unknown

April
Following the Northern Hemisphere meteor shower doldrums of February and March comes an increase in activity as spring arrives. Maximum activity for the Lyrids, a shower of medium strength capable of generating around 15-20 meteors per hour at their peak on a dark night with a New Moon, is set to occur after midnight on April 23. The Lyrids are optimally viewed from the Northern Hemisphere before dawn. Unfortunately, this year features a bright waning gibbous moon that will greatly reduce visibility, especially of fainter meteors. Nevertheless, the Lyrids are known for unpredictable swells of activity with the rate rising up to 100 per hour, so they might be worth viewing in case this happens in 2019. The radiant for this shower, located in the vicinity of the constellation Lyra and the bright star Vega, rises in the northeast at approximately 1 am EST on April 23.

Lyrids Specifications:
● Peak Date: Apr. 23
● ZHR: 18
● Radiant: 18:04 +34º
● Velocity: 43 km/sec
● Moon: Waning gibbous
● Total Activity Range: Apr. 14-30
● Parent Object: Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher)

May
May's Eta Aquariid meteor shower might prove to be one of 2019's key celestial highlights, especially for those in the southern hemisphere. While those viewing the Eta Aquariid's from the northern hemisphere can expect a shower of medium strength with peak rates of up to 30 per hour, observers watching from the equator to 25 degrees south latitude will be able to experience a drastic increase in activity compared to their northern counterparts, with up to 60 meteors per hour visible at maximum. This is due to the radiant, located in close proximity to the star Eta in the constellation Aquarius, having a higher altitude because of longer nights in the southern hemisphere. The Eta Aquariids enjoy extended peak rates with solid activity for about a week surrounding the estimated peak time of May 6 in the early morning hours just after 6 AM EST, as well as a dark, moonless sky.

Eta Aquariids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Apr. 19 – May 28
● Peak Date: May 6
● ZHR: 50
● Radiant: 22:32 -1º
● Velocity: 66 km/sec
● Moon: Waxing crescent
● Parent Object: Halley’s Comet

June
Unlike previous months, most noteworthy meteor shower activity in June occurs during daylight hours. As you can imagine, visibility for daytime showers is almost non-existent. The constellations these showers radiate from are too close to the sun this time of year. That said, you may still be able to see some meteors if you're watching in the early morning hours just before the sun rises.

Two of the most intense daytime showers of the year, the Arietids and the Zeta Perseids, both have their peaks in June. Emanating from the constellation Aries between May 22 and July 2 with maximum activity on June 7, the Arietids produce up to 60 meteors per hour at their strongest point. Of course it would only be possible to view most of these under ideal dark sky conditions. But since you can't turn the sun off, the most you can expect to see in an hour is only about 1-2 and even that is an optimistic estimate. There is some debate among astronomers regarding the origins of the June Arietids. Some believe they come from the asteroid 1566 Icarus while others believe they come from comet 96P/Machholz.
Meanwhile, peak activity for the Daytime Zeta Perseids comes a mere two days following peak activity for the Daytime Arietids. Total activity stretches from May 14 to June 24. Originating from Encke's Comet (2P/Encke), the Zeta Perseids have their radiant point in the constellation Perseus.

July
Throughout most of July, the majority of visual meteors will appear to radiate from the Antihelion source. This is true for viewers in both hemispheres. Activity does pick up toward the end of the month, though, with the Delta Aquariids. This meteor shower is expected to peak in the pre-dawn hours on July 30 with a waning crescent moon only two nights before a New Moon on August 1. An approximately 20-25 ZHR is expected with high rates spanning late July to early August and full activity from July 12 to August 23, overlapping peak activity for the more famous Perseid shower. The radiant is located near the star Delta Aquarii, also known as Skat, the third brightest star in the constellation Aquarius. The Delta Aquariids are best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere or from latitudes just north of the equator.

Delta Aquariids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Jul. 12 – Aug. 23
● Peak Date: Jul. 30
● ZHR: 20-25
● Radiant: 22:40 -16.4º
● Velocity: 41 km/sec (25 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning crescent
● Parent Object: Possibly comet 96P/Machholz

August
August's main event, the Perseids, is perhaps the most famous of all meteor showers, especially for Northern Hemisphere observers. This is due to both the time of year they take place, in the middle of summer when the kids are out of school and the overnight weather is warmer and more comfortable, as well as their brightness and abundance. Named for the constellation Perseus from which they appear to radiate, the Perseids get progressively more prolific as the night wears on, so the best time to view them is in the early morning hours just before dawn. This year's Perseid shower will be slightly diminished by a waxing gibbous moon on the night of August 12-13, its estimated peak night. However, plenty of meteors will be visible on the surrounding nights when the moon won't be as much of a hindrance. Perseid activity extends over a month from July 17 to August 24, providing ample opportunities for viewing.

Perseids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Jul. 17 – Aug. 24
● Peak Date: Aug. 13
● ZHR: 110
● Radiant: 03:12 +57.6º
● Velocity: 37 km/sec (23 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing gibbous
● Parent Object: Comet Swift-Tuttle

September
September opens with peak activity for the Aurigids, a minor shower, on the first of the month. This date coincides with a New Moon, so while the Aurigids normally produce low ZHRs of about 5-6, at least lunar conditions will be optimal for viewing them. The radiant will not be high enough in the sky for decent viewing until after 1 AM with peak viewing at approximately 2:30 AM EST. The Aurigids are worth mentioning, despite their track record for minimal activity in most years, because they have produced unexpected meteor surges in the past, the last coming in 2007. That year, for about 20 minutes their peak ZHR increased from 5-6 to about 130! While enhanced rates for the 2019 Aurigids are not anticipated, you may still want to be there to observe them just in case.

Aurigids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Aug. 28 – Sep. 5
● Peak Date: Sep. 1
● ZHR: 6
● Radiant: 06:04 +39º
● Velocity: 66 km/sec (41 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing Crescent
● Parent Object: Comet Kiess

October
The quality of October's two most active Northern Hemisphere meteor showers, the Draconids and Orionids, will be significantly reduced as a result of unfortunate lunar conditions. Those viewing on the evening of October 9, the peak night for the Draconid shower, will have a brilliant waxing gibbous moon to contend with, while those viewing on the Orionid shower's peak night, October 22, will be doing so under slightly more optimal conditions, with a waning crescent moon only a day following its last quarter phase. Under ideally dark skies with the radiant directly above, these two showers would be expected to yield about 10 and 25 meteors per hour respectively, but 2019 will not provide the necessary conditions for this.

Formerly known as the Giacobinids because they originate from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, the Draconids appear to radiate from the constellation Draco. This is typically considered to be a medium strength shower. The Orionids, as you might imagine, radiate from the constellation Orion. Like the Eta Aquariids, the Orionids originate from Halley’s Comet. As recently as 2009, the Orionids reached peak rates of about 50-75, comparable to the Perseids. This dramatic upsurge in meteor activity is not anticipated for 2019, but it is still a remote possibility.
October is also the month when the Southern Taurids are at their maximum. Associated with the comet 2P/Encke, the Southern Taurids combine with their Northern counterparts to form a steady source of bright meteors for three months from September 10 to December 10. The Taurids' lack of meteors visible at peak times, about 5 per hour, is made up for by their extended overall activity. Appearing from the constellation Taurus, the Taurids have a rather large radiant that overlaps the same part of the sky as the Antihelion during these months. Therefore, when the Taurids are active, the Antihelion meteor source is considered to be inactive. Peak activity for the Southern Taurids is expected to occur on October 10, a night with a nearly full waxing gibbous moon.

Draconids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Oct. 6 – Oct. 10
● Peak Date: Oct. 9
● ZHR: 10
● Radiant: 17:28 +54º
● Velocity: 20 km/sec (12 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing gibbous
● Parent Object: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner

Orionids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Oct. 2 – Nov. 7
● Peak Date: Oct. 22
● ZHR: 20
● Radiant: 06:20 +15.5º
● Velocity: 66 km/sec (41 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning Crescent
● Parent Object: Halley’s Comet

Southern Taurids:
● Total Activity Range: Sep. 10 – Nov. 20
● Peak Date: Oct. 10
● ZHR: 5
● Radiant: 03:12 +12.8º
● Velocity: 27 km/sec (17 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waxing gibbous
● Parent Object: Comet 2P/Encke

November
Radiating from the constellation Leo and originating from the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, the November Leonids are responsible for some of the strongest and most breathtaking meteor storms ever observed. For about a 15 minute span in the early morning hours of November 17, 1966, meteor rates reached astounding levels as high as thousands per minute! Unfortunately, a Leonid meteor storm is not predicted for 2019 or for many years to come. Typical Leonid meteor rates are expected to be around 15 per hour for the foreseeable future. In 2019, the Leonids will be best viewed from either hemisphere at approximately 1:30 AM EST under a waning gibbous moon one night prior to last quarter. Total activity extends throughout most of November, stretching from November 6 to November 30.

The Northern Taurids reach their maximum on November 13, a little over a month following the Southern Taurid peak. Similar to the Southern Taurids, this shower is expected to produce a ZHR of about 5 and fall on a night with very poor lunar conditions. Both meteor showers are part of the same complex, interfering with each other in the same portion of the sky making it difficult to differentiate between them. Optimal viewing is expected to occur around 2 AM EST although, as mentioned previously, rates will be low even then.

Leonids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Nov. 6 – Nov. 30
● Peak Date: Nov. 18
● ZHR: 15
● Radiant: 10:08 +21.6º
● Velocity: 71 km/sec (44 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning gibbous
● Parent Object: Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle

Northern Taurids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Oct. 20 – Dec. 10
● Peak Date: Nov. 13
● ZHR: 5
● Radiant: 03:52 +22.7º
● Velocity: 30 km/sec (18 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning gibbous
● Parent Object: Comet 2P/Encke

December
December could very well be the most active month of the year when it comes to meteor shower activity. The Puppid-Velids, an extensive network of weak radiants located between the constellations Puppis and Vela contribute to an overall ZHR of about 10 and are visible from the deep Southern Hemisphere from December 1 to December 15 with peak rates on December 7. Rates for observers watching from more northern latitudes will be considerably less.
For the week leading up to Christmas, the Ursid meteor shower will be active for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere. The Ursids are a minor shower with low rates, but it doesn’t get as much attention as it might if it occurred at any other time of the year. At best, the ZHR is predicted to be about 10 with peak activity taking place in the late morning hours on December 23. This night will feature a thin waning crescent moon for unimpeded dark skies. However, while conditions may be ideal, and slightly increased rates have been reported as recently as 2011 and 2014, the Ursids have the disadvantage of peaking right in the middle of the holiday season when temperatures are at frigid levels and many would-be observers are indoors with their families. On top of that, the Ursids take place just a week following one of the more spectacular meteor shower displays of the year, the Geminids.
Rivaling both the August Perseids and the January Quadrantids in terms of prolificity, the December Geminids are a highly anticipated annual shower among meteor enthusiasts. The Geminids radiate from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini. Like the Quadrantids, the Geminids were born from an asteroid rather than a comet. In this case the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

The Geminids have the potential to produce incredible ZHRs upwards of 140! Only one night removed from a full moon, lunar conditions will be far from ideal on the night of December 13, the expected night of Geminid peak activity. The Geminid shower is so strong, however, that this shouldn't affect visibility too much. Active from December 4 to December 17, the Geminids will provide a sensational show for those viewing on December 13 with the radiant high in the sky from about 9:30 PM EST all the way through until dawn and the highest number of meteors falling at approximately 2 AM EST.

Puppid-Velids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Dec. 1 – Dec. 15
● Peak Date: Dec. 7
● ZHR: 10
● Radiant: 08:12 -45º
● Velocity: 40 km/sec
● Moon: Waxing gibbous
● Parent Object: Unknown

Geminids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Dec. 4 – Dec. 17
● Peak Date: Dec. 14
● ZHR: 140
● Radiant: 07:28 +32.2º
● Velocity: 35 km/sec (22 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning gibbous
● Parent Object: Asteroid 3200 Phaethon

Ursids Specifications:
● Total Activity Range: Dec. 17 – Dec. 26
● Peak Date: Dec. 23
● ZHR: 10
● Radiant: 14:28 +74.8º
● Velocity: 33 km/sec (21 mi/sec)
● Moon: Waning crescent
● Parent Object: Comet 8P/Tuttle