The Perseid meteor shower is taking place this week, meaning you get to see shooting stars with the naked eye, but there’s plenty of other opportunities to see a meteor shower in 2020.
From the Geminids to Quadrantids, Lyrids to Perseids, you can see a meteor shower just by looking up to the skies – so long as the weather is clear, the Moon isn’t too big and bright and you know where to look.
The when, where, and how are easy. Here’s a guide to the main meteor showers and sights for you by date, as well as an explanation of what the terms all mean.
When is the next meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower has a window from 17th July to 24th July. It’s one of the brighter showers of the year, and the peak normally falls between 12th August to 13th. This year it’s started already – 11th July and 12th July.
The shower appears to start within the constellation Perseus, which is where the name comes from.
The Perseid shower happens when the Earth passes through the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle.
The comet is the largest object known to pass Earth repeatedly. It orbits the sun every 133 years.
To see the Perseids look up at the sky in any direction, but as the sun sets. We’ve put together some advice on how to watch Perseids Meteor Shower tonight.
When to see Perseids Meteor Shower tonight
The best time is around 12am (midnight) to 5:30am UK time.
What is a meteor shower?
A meteor shower comes about when the Earth passes through debris from a comet. Meteors are often called shooting stars though they aren’t actually stars at all.
The way we see them in the sky makes it look like meteor showers originate from the original spot in the sky, this is known as a shower radiant.
The meteor originates from a particle, about the size of a grain of sand, that is vapourised when it goes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Definitions: Meteor, meteoroid or meteorite?
A meteor is a meteoroid broken off from a comet or asteroid. It burns up as it enters Earths atmosphere creating a ‘shooting star’.
Meteor – the pieces of comet that break off and are small (like a grain of rice).
Meteoroid – the debris itself that burns up in the atmosphere. They typically break off asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Meteorite – when the meteoroid makes it to Earth it’s called a meteorite.
Meteor shower 2020 dates
Peak 12th – 13th August
Range 16th July to 23rd August
What are they? Fast, bright meteors, with trains. Linked to Comet Swift-Tuttle
Draconid meteor shower
Peak 8th-9th October
Range 5th – 9th October
What are they? Linked to Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zimmer
Orionid meteor shower
Peak 21st-22nd October
Range 1st October – 6th November
What are they? Fast, fine train. Linked to Comet Halley
Peak South: 9-10th October, North: 10-11th November
Range South: 10th September – 20th November, North: 19th October – 9th December
What are they? Very slow meteors
Peak 17th-18th November
Range 5th – 29th November
What are they? Fast, bright meteors, fine trains. Linked to Comet Tempel-Tuttle.
Geminid meteor shower
Peak 14th-15th December
Range 4th-17th December
What are they? Bright meteors, few trains. Plenty of them.
Peak 21st-22nd December
Range 16th-25th December
What are they? Light shower. Linked to Comet 8P/Tuttle
Peak 3rd-4th January
Range 28th December – 12th January
What are they? Blue meteors with fine trains
Lyrid meteor shower
Peak 21st-22nd April
Range 13-29th April
What are they? Fast and bright meteors, some will have trains. Linked to Comet Thatcher.
Peak 5th-6th May
Range 18th April – 27th May
What are they? The Eta Aqariids lay low in the sky. Linked to the Comet Halley.
Peak 29th – 30th July
Range 11th July – 22nd August
What are they? Meteors over several days, low rate per hour
Peak 29th – 30th July
Range 2nd July to 14th August
What are they? Seen as yellow, slow fireballs.
Find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide