Meteor Showers

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NAME

PEAK DATE

DURATION

CONSTELLATION

AVERAGE HOURLY RATE

COMET OF ORIGIN

Quadrantids
January 3
5 Days
Bootes
20-60
?
Zeta Bootids
March 10
4 Days
Bootes
10
?
April Lyrids
April 21
2-3 Days
Lyra/Hercules
10
Comet 1861-1
Eta Aquarids
May 4

1 week

Aquarius
20
Halley
June Lyrids
June 15
10 Days
Lyra
12
?
Ophiuchids
June 21-22
1 Week
Ophiuchus
15
?
Draconids
June 28
?
Draco
50
Pons-Winnecka
Delta Aquarids
July 29
20 Days
Aquarius
35
?
Perseids
August 11-12
5 Days
Perseus
50-60
1861-II
Draconids
October 10
1 Day
Draco
Variable
Giacobini-Zinner
Orionids
October 20
8 Days
Orion
25-30
Halley
Taurids
November 5
30 Days
Taurus
12
Encke
Cepheids
November 9
4 Days
Cepheus
8
?
Leonids
November 17
4 Days
Leo
10-100*
Tempel-Tuttle
Andromedids

November 20

20 Days
Andromeda
Variable
?
Geminids
December 14
8 Days
Gemini
58
Asteroid** 3200 Phaethon
Ursids
December 22
7 Days
Ursa Minor
6-10
Tuttle
* The Leonids have a 33 year cycle created by it's host comet Tempel-Tuttle which greatly boosts the number of meteors observed during the year that the comet passes by. In 1833 it created a burst of nearly 150,000 meteors per hour. In 1966 this Meteor Storm brought nearly 100,000 per hour. Not all storms in this 33 year cycle are equal, in 1998 the storm brought a peak of "only 1000-2000 meteors."

**The Geminids seem to be the only meteor shower that does not originate from a comet. It's source seems to be associated with an asteroid named 3200 Phaeton, which is probably the dead core of a comet.

Meteors 101:

Meteors are streaks of light that fly through the night sky. They are composed of tiny particles of stone or dust, most often no larger than a grain of sand, that burn up due to friction with Earth's atmosphere.

When these particles are in space, they are called "Meteoroids". When they are burning in the atmosphere and we see the light, they are properly called "Meteors", though they are commonly referred to as "Shoot Stars" or "Falling Stars". It should be noted that real stars do not fall from the sky. If the object makes it to the ground without being totally incinerated, that object is then called a "Meteorite".

Meteor Showers occur due to the Earth passing through or near the path of a comet. As comets melt and sublimate due to the sun's energy, they release thousands of tiny dust particles. As Earth encounters these particles, the particles burn up because of friction with Earth's atmosphere. We see more meteors during a shower because we are passing the comet's orbit which has a much higher concentration of particles than normal space. Since the Earth passes that same spot in it's orbit at the same time each year, meteor showers occur on nearly the same dates every year.

What's A Radiant? Because all meteors within a shower are falling toward Earth in parallel paths, to the observer this creates the illusion that they are all originating from one spot in the sky (similar to the way two railroad tracks seem to come together at the horizon). The spot that the shower seems to emanate from is called the "Radiant". The constellation that a given meteor shower's radiant is in, is the constellation that the shower is named after. Hence the famous Perseids have their radiant in the constellation of Perseus.

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Northern Stars Planetarium and Educational Services
Fairfield, ME 04937
(207) 453-7668
info@northern-stars.com
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