2020 Will Be a Great Year for Meteor Showers. Here's When to Catch the Best Ones.
Every chance you'll have in 2020 to watch meteors light up the sky.
To be honest, 2019 was a crappy year for meteor showers. It seemed like almost every shower was washed out by the moon. That sucks because there's something special about lying out in the grass as meteors streak across the sky overhead. It's one of those unique experiences that can make you feel small in a vast universe.
Thankfully, you won't be disappointed this year.
Today, Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office will play the role of Professor Farnsworth, because he's got good news, everyone: The meteor showers in 2020 are going to be a hell of a lot better than 2019. Or, as Cooke put it, "2019 sucked for meteor showers. 2020 is going to be much better." Fewer of the displays will be washed out by bright moonlight, which is the biggest difference. There aren't likely to be any outbursts or unexpected meteor events, but you should have generally great conditions for all of the year's best showers.
To prep you for a year of meteor-watching, Cooke walked Thrillist through every meteor shower worth catching throughout the year, so you know what to expect when you're out stargazing. Get out your planner because here are the best fiery space dust displays you shouldn't miss in 2020.
Can you see shooting starts from space? Turns out, yes! The first meteor shower of the decade and we were lucky enough to catch it from the @Space_Station along with the northern lights. This is a composite image of a few of the #quadrantids as they blazed into the atmosphere. pic.twitter.com/ETdMRK1d86— Christina H Koch (@Astro_Christina) January 6, 2020
Peak: The night of April 21
The Lyrids end a long drought following January's Quadrantids. Conditions will be quite favorable throughout the night, with an almost new moon providing no interference to your viewing experience. Expect to see about 15 meteors per hour.
Peak: The night of May 5
The display doesn't produce many extra-bright meteors (fireballs), but could show 20-30 meteors per hour, Cooke says. The moon may provide interference much of the night, so you'll want to go out in the hours just before dawn on May 6 after the moon has set for the night. The Eta Aquariids are fast and faint, so keep your eyes on the sky.
Have been hardly waiting for the Perseid meteor shower again this year, although the shinning Moon was expected to disturb the show. The event was filmed over Rijeka, Croatia and SW Slovenia through the nights from Aug 9th to 13th, 2019. Proud and happy to share this composite! pic.twitter.com/hfJirMpi1f— Marko Korosec (@MarkoKorosecNet) August 17, 2019
Peak: The night of August 11
Even when it doesn't produce the most meteors, this is one of the best showers of the year. Cooke says this will be the second-best show of the year in 2020 with 60-80 meteors per hour cutting across the sky. Go out after midnight to get the best show and avoid light pollution from the moon. Not only will there be a lot of meteors, the Perseids have persistent trains (the tail behind the meteor) and loads of stunning fireballs.
Orionid Meteor Shower
Peak: The night of October 20
The moon will set before the radiant (the point where the meteors appear to emanate) rises in the sky, offering a good view of the Orionids, which Cooke says will feature around 20 meteors per hour. You'll want to go out after midnight to see the fast and faint remnants of Halley's Comet crash into Earth's atmosphere.
Southern & Northern Taurid Meteor Shower
Peak: The nights of October 10 and November 12, respectively
These two showers are getting lumped together because there's not much to see here. Cooke says that if you want to see the Taurids, you'll need a lot of patience. The showers produce maybe three meteors per hour. However, when you do see one, you could be wowed. The fireballs from the Taurids are spectacular. Your best bet might be to try and catch the tail end of the Northern Taurids when you go out for the Leonids just a few days later.
Leonid Meteor Shower
Peak: The night of November 17
You'll see about 10 meteors every 60 minutes in the hours before dawn. The moon will set before the radiant rises, providing good conditions for the storm, even if it doesn't produce an incredible number of meteors.
Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: The night of December 13
Cooke says it's a "very good year to observe the Geminids." Despite the storm arriving in December, the shower produces fireballs, and you might see as many as 100 per hour. Plus, the moon won't be providing any interference to your experience at all. Go out around 2am local time for the best viewing.
Ursid Meteor Shower
When: The night of December 22
The Ursids are sometimes referred to as the "cursed Ursids" because they fall at a time of year when basically no one wants to be sitting out in the cold watching meteors. This year, the Ursids should produce somewhere around 10 meteors per hour.