The Quadrantid meteor shower — the first of 2016 — has the same blazing glory of the August Perseid and December Geminid showers, but seeing the shooting stars that can come at a rate of 50 per hour is a bit more difficult.
For one thing, the peak is short-lived, says earthsky.org. The shower is best seen from northerly latitudes, and between midnight and dawn on Jan. 4. It’s speculative, experts say, but the best time to view the shower in North America may be around 4 a.m.
The waning crescent moon shouldn’t interfere too much with the January 2016 Quadrantid meteor shower.
The forecast over Georgia? Pretty good. Skies will be “mostly clear” Sunday night and “sunny” on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Quadrantids will be your last chance before April to see meteor showers. If you’re filling out your calendar for the year, mark these dates for meteor showers:
April 21-22, Lyrids
A full moon rises about the same time as the peak of the Lyrids, which could make this shower a bust for stargazers. It’s too bad, because although the Lyrids don’t produce a lot of meteors — typically, around 10 to 15 on a moonless night — they are known for uncommon, difficult-to-predict surges that can sometimes bring up to 100 meteors per hour. Another aspect that makes this shower a crowd-pleaser is that the Lyrids tend to be bright and often leave trails, which may be enough to overcome the drenching moonlight during the peak, April 22.
May 5-6, Eta Aquarids
This shower peaks over several days, and a new moon should make for ideal viewing conditions. The Eta Aquarids produce feweer meteors n the northern United States and Canada, but may be more active in the Southern Hemisphere, where 10 to 20 meteors an hour are possible, earthsky.org says. Peak viewing time is about two hours before dawn. The meteor shower figures to be the most active on May 6, but watch on May 5 and May 7 as well.
July 28-29, Delta Aquarids
This shower also favors the Southern Hemisphere and tropical latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Up to 20 meteors per hour can be expected from this shower. There’s no definite peak time for the Delta Aquarids, and the medium-speed meteors go on fairly steadily through late July and early August. Best viewing times are an hour or two before dawn, but the meteors will compete with a waning crescent moon in late July. You may be able to see some in early August under a new moon.
If you can catch only one meteor shower in 2016, make it the Perseids, which often produce 50 to 100 fast, bright meteors per hour during the peak and are known for persistent trains. You’ll have to get up early to catch them, though, because a bright moon will intrude with viewing in the evening hours. The best bet is to watch after the moonset and before dawn on Aug. 12 — that’s when the Perseids produce the most meteors per hour, anyway. Here’s some more good news: the Perseids deul with the Delta Aquarids in early August to make this a prime time for meteor shower viewing.
Oct. 7, Draconids
This shower also favors the Northern Hemisphere. What sets this shower apart from others is that the Draconids are most likely to fly in the evening hours. It’s usually a sleeper of a sky show, earthsky.org says, but in rare instances, the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky can fire off hundreds of meteors in a single hour. A waxing crescent moon could intrude some on this shower.
The glare of a waning gibbous moon in the early morning hours just before sunrise could intrude with the Orionids, which typically produce 10 to 20 meteors per hour. Most meteors in this shower tend to fall after midnight, and they’re typically at their best in the wee hours just before dawn. The Orionids also sometimes present bright fireballs.
Nov. 4-5, South Taurids
Though the best viewing conditions are likely to be after midnight on Nov. 5, the Taurids are very long-lasting, from Sept. 25-Nov. 25. They only offer about seven meteors an hour, but the Taurids are known for having a high percentage of fireballs. This is the first of two Taurid meteor showers, and it always adds a few more meteors to the South Taurids’ peak night.
Nov. 11-12, North Taurids
This shower is long-lasting, too, from Oct. 12-Dec. 2, but modest as well with only about seven meteors an hour, with most of the activity taking place around midnight. The meteors are slow moving, but very bright. The waxing gibbous moon could outshine this year’s shower.
Nov. 16-17, Leonids
Some of the greatest meteor storms in history have been associated with his event, which can produce rates of thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes, as occurred on Nov. 17, 1966. “ Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream,” earthsky.org says. In most years, though, the constellation of Leo the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing about 10 to 15 meteors an hour, especially just before dawn this year. Unfortunately, the bright light of a waning gibbous moon will offer some competition.
The last meteor shower of the year is usually one of the finest meteor showers visible in either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere, but a full moon will be out all night, subduing the typically prolific Geminids, which can produce up to 120 meteors per hour. The shower peaks around 2 a.m.
Dec. 21-22, Ursids
This minor meteor shower often goes unnoticed. Produced by the dust grains left behind by the comet Tuttle, it produces only about five to 10 meteors an hour. The shower runs from Dec. 17-25, but it should peak around the 21st. The moon will be 23 days old at the time of peak activity, so it shouldn’t present too much of a problem.
Full Moons and Supermoons in 2016
Here are the dates for full moons in 2016, according to space.com:
Jan. 23: Wolf Moon
Feb. 22: Snow Moon
March 23: Worm Moon
April 22: Pink Moon
May 21: Flower Moon
June 20: Strawberry Moon
July 19: Buck Moon
Aug. 18: Sturgeon Moon
Sept. 16: Harvest Moon
Oct. 16: Hunter’s Moon
Nov. 14: Beaver Moon
Dec. 13: Cold Moon
Three of these moons — Oct. 16, Nov. 14 and Dec. 13 — will be supermoons, according to seasky.org.