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Shooting Star Peak Dates 2012

Shooting Star Peak Dates 2012

Shooting Stars captivate all ages and you’ll get major cool points when you can magically predict shooting star activity!  A shooting star starts as a piece of space debris called a meteoroid.  When a meteoroid enters earth’s atmosphere, gases and particles of the meteoride are vaporized creating a brief glowing trail.  At this point it’s called a meteor – what we know as a shooting star.  There are actually millions of shooting stars every day but most of them are too small to be seen (about the size of a pebble) or they occur during daylight when the sun outshines their bright trail.   Meteors often occur in showers when earth passes through a collection of debris such as that left by a comet.

Throughout the year (for reasons I don’t understand) there are predictable periods of increased shooting star activity.  Below are the 11 dates that correspond with the highest frequency of shooting stars.

  • January 3rd/4th (the Quadrantids)– Some meteors can be seen late night on the 3rd with the best viewing from about 12 am until dawn on the 4th.  This show can sometimes excite you with over 100 meteors per hour although the average is much less.
  • April 21st/22nd (the Lyrids) – Moderate activity late night on the 21st, increasing in frequency until dawn on the 22nd. This shower averages about 10-20 bright meteors per hour with occasional unpredictable bursts of about 100 per hour.
  • May 5th/6th (the Eta Aquarids) – Best viewed before dawn on both days.  
Unfortunately, in 2012 this shower will be obscured by a full moon making the shooting stars difficult to see.
  • July 28th/29th (the Delta Aquarids) – some activity throughout the night with the highest activity in the two hours before dawn on the 29th. 
This shower will be more dramatic in the southern hemisphere although 10-20 meteors per hour may be visible in the north.  These slow and steady meteors will continue to a lesser degree into early August.
  • August 11-13 (the Perseids) – increased activity will be visible the evening of August 11th and will peak between midnight and dawn.  This pattern will then repeat the following day. These fast, bright meteors appear all over the sky typically peaking around 50 meteors per hour.  This and the Geminids (December 13/14) are usually the two best meteor showers of the year.
  • October 7th (the Draconids) – 
unlike most showers, this one is best viewed from sundown until midnight.  It’s a small shower with only a few meteors per hour but will occasionally surprise you with hundreds of shooting stars in a single hour.
  • October 20th/21st (the Orionids) – Some activity will be visible the night of the 20th with activity increasing throughout the night until dawn on the 21st.  These quick meteors typically max out at 15 per hour.  They seem to shoot out of the constellation Orion.
  • November 4th/5th (the South Taurids) – This small shower follows the normal pattern – some activity the evening 4th with its peak between midnight and dawn on the 5th. This shower only produces about 5-10 meteors per hour.
  • November 11th/12th (the North Taurids
) – some shooting stars will be visible the night of the 11th with best viewing from midnight to 1am on November 12th.  This shower is quite slow (only about 7 meteors an hour) but is quite long.  Increased meteor activity will actually goes until December 2nd.
  • November 16th/17th (the Leonids) – start watching the night of the 16th and get the best shows between midnight and dawn on the 17th.  Most years this is a pretty standard meteor shower with about 10-15 shooting stars per hour.  But on rare occasions it has flashed hundreds and even thousands in a single hour, making it one of the more famous showers.
  • December 13th/14th (the Geminids) – this is often the most prolific display of the year producing about 50 meteors per hour.  Good watching hours start earlier than most showers – starting around 9pm on December 13th with the best views occurring between 1-3am on December 14th.

Shooting Star Watching Tips:

  1. Dark sky – the darker the sky, the more visible the meteor shower.  A full moon or bright city lights will make shooting stars more difficult to see.
  2. Know the best dates – shooting stars follow surprisingly regular patterns.  Refer to the dates above for the best expected meteor showers of 2012.  Starwatching on these nights greatly increases your chance of shooting stars.  You’ll also typically notice some increased activity a few days before and after these peak dates.
  3. Know the best times – With a couple exceptions, meteor showers peak between midnight and dawn.  If that’s too late/early for you, go out earlier – you’ll still enjoy increased activity.  Refer to the specific date for information specific to that shower.
  4. Bring your kids – The Perseids meteor shower (August 11-13) is a particularly good show for kids.  The weather is warm, they’re off from school and they’ll jump at the opportunity to stay up late and join you for an outdoor adventure.  This is a great opportunity to teach kids about space in a really fun way!
  5. Manage your expectations – meteor showers have a wide range of variability.  Year to year and even hour to hour can be totally different.  Bring a blanket, lawn chair and perhaps a little food and drink.  Late night picnics are fun whether you see 10 or 1,000 shooting stars!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cptspock/2526613664/


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