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How to watch every meteor shower in 2022

From the Quadrantids in January to the Geminids in December, there are at least 11 opportunities to see meteor showers in 2022. Here's how to see them all.

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Meteor showers are a treat for skywatchers throughout the year, and 2022 will be no exception. From the Quadrantids in January to the Geminids in December, meteor showers provide a chance for all of us to enjoy one of the natural wonders of our solar system.

Most meteor showers have their origins with comets, according to the American Meteor Society. Each time a comet swings by the sun, it produces small particles that eventually spread out along the entire orbit of the comet to form a meteoroid “stream.” If the Earth’s orbit and the comet’s orbit intersect at some point, then the Earth will pass through this stream for a few days at roughly the same time each year, creating a meteor shower, the AMS said.

Most meteor showers are named after constellations, stars, and even asteroids.

Meteors are space rocks that are as small as a grain of sand or small rock. As they enter the Earth's atmosphere, they create a tail of debris as they disintegrate before reaching the ground. Meteorites that have made their way to the Earth's surface are small pieces of an asteroid. Some have been traced back to Mars and the moon. 

How to best watch a meteor shower

The meteor shower sky maps below show the positions of the radiant (circle) in the night sky, where you can best view the meteors showers:

The Quadrantids

The first meteor shower of  the new year, the Quadrantids meteor shower is one of the best annual showers. Under perfect conditions, between 60 and 200 meteors can be seen per hour, according to NASA. The activity range is from Dec. 26 to Jan. 16. The peak, which is on the night of Jan 2-3, lasts just six hours. 

The Quadrantids meteor shower is known for its bright fireball meteors, larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak, NASA said.

To view, the radiant can be found just below the Big Dipper in the northern-northeast sky after midnight and highest up before dawn. 

Where to look:

The Lyrids

The Lyrids, which peak in 2022 on the night of April 21-22, have been observed for more than 2,700 years, NASA said, making them one of the oldest-known showers.

The first recorded sighting of a Lyrid meteor shower goes back to 687 B.C. in China. Observers there said the Lyrids were "falling like rain."

The meteor shower sometimes bombards the sky with up to nearly 100 meteors per hour, which are known as outbursts. Earthsky said that, for example, in 1982, American observers saw an outburst of nearly 100 Lyrid meteors per hour. Japanese observers saw around 100 meteors per hour in 1945, and Greek observers saw that number in 1922.

Lyrids are pieces of debris from the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, causing the meteor shower.

The Lyrids are known for their fast and bright meteors, NASA said, though not as fast or as plentiful as the famous Perseids in August.

Where to look:

The Eta Aquariids

In 2022, the most Eta Aquariid meteors should rain down in the hour or two before dawn on May 5, according to EarthSky. The waxing crescent moon is very new (only 15% illuminated) and will set around midnight to give you perfect darkness.

The broad peak to this shower – from April 15 to May 27 – means that some meteors may fly for a few days before and after the predicted optimal date. 

The Eta Aquariids is one of Earth's two meteor showers that come from the debris trail of the famed Halley's comet. The other is the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs each October.

Where to look:

The Southern Delta Aquariids

The Southern Delta Aquariids is a strong shower that's best seen from the Southern Hemisphere, the American Meteor Society said. North of the equator, the radiant is located lower in the southern sky and therefore rates are less than seen from further south. The peak is the night of July 29-30.

Where to look:

The Alpha Capricornids

The Alpha Capricornids are active from July 7 through Aug. 15, with a maximum centered on July 31, according to the American Meteor Society. This shower is not strong and rarely produces in excess of five shower members per hour. What is notable is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period.

Where to look:

The Perseids

One of the best-viewed meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseids are known for their consistent and abundant meteors, which will peak on the night of Aug. 11-12.  

However, unlike 2021, 2022 may not be a great year to spot the Perseids, EarthSky said. The full moon will be up all night long, illuminating the sky.

The best Perseid performance we know of occurred in 1993, when the peak rate topped 300 meteors per hour, NASA said.

What's best about the Perseids is that they can be enjoyed during summer's warmth, unlike the often-nippy nights during the Leonids of November or Geminids of December.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteors are actually tiny dust and particles from the tail of the comet as it orbits around the sun.

Where to look:

The particles, many no bigger than a grain of sand or a pea, blast across the sky at 132,000 mph and disintegrate high in our atmosphere after making a brilliant flash of light.

What makes the event so stunning are the shower's bright, long streaks of light and dazzling fireballs, which are large bursts that last longer than typical meteors, according to NASA.

Orionids

According to NASA, the Orionids are active in the night sky annually from around Oct. 2 to Nov. 7. The meteors come from the debris trail of Halley's comet, through which the Earth passes this time of year, and radiate from the Orion constellation (the shower's namesake).

The Orionids "are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year," writes NASA, adding that they're known for brightness and speed – traveling at about 148,000 mph. "Fast meteors can leave glowing 'trains' (incandescent bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) which last for several seconds to minutes."

The American Meteor Society said that the Orionid meteor shower of 2022 will peak on Oct. 20-21.

Where to look:

The Southern and Northern Taurids

The meteoroid streams that feed the Southern and Northern Taurids are very spread out and diffuse, EarthSky said. "Thus the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (Sept. 28 to Dec. 2 in 2022), but usually don’t offer more than about five meteors per hour. That is true even on their peak nights," EarthSky reported.

The Taurids are, however, well-known for having many fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. They are best viewed around midnight, when Taurus is at its highest in the sky. The peak night in 2022 is Nov. 4-5 for the Southern Taurids and Nov. 11-12 for the Northern Taurids, the American Meteor Society said. 

Where to look:

Leonids

The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they will be visible all the way across the sky.

Some of the greatest meteor showers ever seen have been the Leonids. In some years, they've been a full-fledged meteor "storm." The 1833 Leonid meteor storm included rates as high as an incredible 100,000 meteors per hour, EarthSky said.

The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains, the American Meteor Society said. The peak in 2022 is Nov. 17-18. 

Where to look:

Geminids

The Geminid meteor shower radiates from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins, EarthSky said. This is one of the Northern Hemisphere’s best showers. The meteors are plentiful, rivaling the August Perseids. The peak in 2022 is Dec. 13-14. 

Where to look:

The Earth's protective layers

Thin layers of invisible gases surround the Earth, which create a protective cover called the atmosphere. When small meteors hit the atmosphere they burn up and vaporize, creating a trail of debris as they descend toward the Earth.

SOURCE NASA; Sky & Telescope; EarthSky; Space.com; Date and Time

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