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Major Meteor Showers

Posted Jan 05 2013 12:00am
As we hurtle through space on our annual journey around the sun, the Earth is constantly impacting debris from asteroids and comets.  Igniting from friction with our planet's atmosphere, they produce meteors (commonly known as shooting stars) that are visible every night of the year; in fact, some are bright enough to be seen during the day.  The displays peak as the Earth crosses the path of the parent bodies and there are more than 50 named meteor showers in the course of a year; this post lists the major events.

The Quadrantids peak on January 4 and may yield 60 meteors per hour while the March Geminids peak on March 22 and produce about 40 meteors per hour.  The Lyrids offer about 30 meteors per hour through the second half of April and the Eta Aquarids, remnants of Halley's Comet, peak from May 4-5.  The June Bootids (or June Draconids), produced by the Pons-Winnecke Comet, peak on June 30 but are highly erratic from year to year.  Delta Aquarids streak across the night sky on July 28-29 and the Alpha Capricornids peak on July 29-30.  The Perseids, recognized as the most reliable of our annual showers, are remnants of the Swift-Tuttle Comet and peak from August 10-12, yielding up to 100 meteors per hour.

The Draconids, left behind by the Glacobinni-Zinner Comet, peak from October 8-9 and may produce 200 or more meteors per hour.  The Orionids, debris from Halley's Comet, peak from October 20-21 while the Leonids from the Temple-Tuttle Comet peak on November 17 and may provide spectacular displays.  The Geminids, from the 3200 Phaeton Asteroid, peak from December 13-14 and the Ursids close out the year on December 22-23.  Meteor showers are best observed after midnight and away from city lights; of course, the moon phase also impacts viewing since moonlight will diminish the perceived brightness of the meteors.
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