The Final Meteor Shower of the Year Arrives Christmas Weekend. Here's How to See It.
It's the winter solstice, the first day of winter. It's not an occasion many people are celebrating. It marks the start of garbage temperatures and forced hibernation. But you can take control of how you see the world. Winter can be fun, and you can welcome one of the year's top four seasons with a meteor shower.
The Ursid meteor shower will peak the night of December 21 into the morning of December 22. Though, this certainly isn't the sexiest meteor shower of the year. It frequently produces around 5-10 meteors per hour in most years. However, Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office tells Thrillist we could see as many as 20 per hour. Still not quite the Fourth of July, but in a year that has had a lot of disappointing meteor displays, there are still good reasons to get out and see the Ursids this week.
When will the Ursid meteor shower peak?
The Ursids have a sharp peak. With other showers, you might be able to catch a decent display the night before or after the peak. With the Ursids, it's less likely that you'll see much on the surrounding nights. The night of December 21 is when to get out there, but, as noted by Space.com, the closer to dawn you go out on the morning of December 22, the more meteors you're likely to spot.
How to watch the Ursid Meteor Shower
The radiant for the Ursids is near the bottom of the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor, which climbs higher in the sky throughout the night. However, when you go out, you shouldn't look right at the radiant. The meteors will appear to be streaking away from that point. So, position yourself to see as much sky as possible and don't just focus on the radiant.
Ursid meteors to peak in moonlighthttps://t.co/63tTJGDMa9— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) December 18, 2018
The Ursid meteor shower is active each year around the December solstice. In 2018, peak morning is probably December 22. If you're out before sunup, watch for Ursids this week
Photo by Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona. pic.twitter.com/LDYBkZZN6w
To that end, binoculars or a telescope aren't particularly helpful either. They'll limit your field of vision, which means you'll see fewer meteors.
The biggest boon for the Ursids this year is that there won't be interference from the moon. We'll have a waning crescent moon, providing nearly dark skies. Brighter moons have impeded the visibility of showers throughout 2019. Though, the moon isn't the only light that can ruin your ability to see the Ursids, which aren't particularly bright or known for having long tails.
You'll want to get out of the city, away from light pollution, and find dark skies. That's going to allow you to see as many meteors as possible. You'll also need good weather. You won't see any meteors if there's a cloudy sky overhead. Maybe bring along some hot toddies or hot chocolates too, because it is December after all and you'll really see nothing at all if you get too cold to stay outside.