The Perseids, And Other Meteor Showers To Look Out For In 2020

The meteoroids from Halley's Comet strike Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 148,000mph, (238,000kph) burning up in streaking flashes of light that can be seen with the naked eye.

Orionid meteors are known for their speed and brilliance, so if you persevere there's a good chance you'll see several bright 'shooting stars' zipping across the sky.

Why is it called Orionid?

It's named Orionid because it appears to radiate from the constellation Orion. Orion is one of the brightest and best known constellations and contains two of the 10 brightest stars in the sky Rigel and Betelgeuse, as well as the famous Orion's Belt. 

Orion's Belt is made up of three bright stars quite close together almost in a straight line, and is about 1,500 light years from us on Earth. 

Orion has been known since ancient times and is also referred to as Hunter thanks to Greek mythology. He is often seen in star maps facing Taurus, the bull.

The other major meteor showers of 2020

The Geminid meteor shower

The Geminid meteor shower can be seen from around December 7th to 16th in 2020, with peak activity set to take place on December 13th and 14th.

Caused by the 3200 Phaethon asteroid, the Geminids' orbit brings it very close to the Sun, resulting in its surface material crumbling and breaking off. The Earth passes through this space debris every December, which burns up as it hits our atmosphere. These are the meteors visible in our sky.

The Geminids were first observed relatively recently, in 1862, compared with the Perseids (36AD) and the Leonids (902AD).

The meteor shower appears to come from a point in the constellation Gemini, hence its name.

How to spot the Geminids in 2020

Sightings are possible around the world, but there's good news for Britons: the shower favours observers in the Northern Hemisphere over those in the Southern. 

You can spot the meteors anywhere, but they will appear to come from the Gemini constellation.

During December, it begins in the evening in the east and moves across the sky to the west during the night. Find Orion's Belt - three bright stars positioned in a row - and then look above it and a little to the left.

They will appear as streaks of light, and will sometimes arrive in bursts of two or three. They vary in colour, depending on their composition.

Up to 120 meteors an hour - or two a minute - can be expected, or more during the peak.

The Quadrantid meteor shower

The Quadrantid meteor shower was the first major meteor shower of 2020. It took place from December 28 to January 12, and peaked on the night of January 3 and early hours of January 4. 

Unlike other meteor showers, which tend to peak for approximately two days, the Quadrantid meteor shower typically peaks for a few hours. 

First spotted in 1825 by the Italian astronomer Antonio Brucalassi, astronomers suspect the shower originates from the comet C/1490 Y1, which was first observed 500 years ago by Japanese, Chinese and Korean astronomers.

Why is it called Quadrantid?

The Quadrantids appear to radiate from the extinct constellation Quadrans Muralis, which is now part of the Boötes constellation and not far from the Big Dipper.

Because of the constellation's position in the sky, the shower is often impossible to see in the Southern Hemisphere - however there is a chance of spotting it up to 51 degrees south latitude.

The best spots to see the display are in countries with high northern latitudes, like Norway, Sweden, Canada and Finland.

The Lyrid meteor shower

The Lyrid meteor shower takes place annually between April 16 and April 25 and in 2020, it peaked late on the 21st and in the early hours of the 22nd. 

Meteor showers to watch out for in 2020, including the Draconids and Orionids
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