By Donna Vanzetti
One of my absolute favourite astronomy things to do is to sit out under a beautiful star-filled sky and watch a meteor shower. I love just looking up and studying the whole sky as I wait excitedly for the next flash of light to streak across the sky. The anticipation builds and then, there goes another one! I just love it.
So, for the rest of 2020, we are in for a ‘fiery’ treat, as there are some great meteor showers to come. If you’re unsure what a meteor shower is, here is a quick explanation.
The Southern Taurids: September 19 - November 20
The Southern Taurids are bright, slow moving meteors, making them easy to spot. They will peak around October 10 during the last quarter Moon and typically only about 5 per hour. However, they have been known to produce colourful fireballs, so still worth waiting up for.
The Orionids: October 2 - November 7
The Orionids Meteor Shower comes from the Halley’s Comet debris stream with the Zenith Hourly rate (ZHR) expected around the 21st. The ZHR is the theoretical maximum peak rates of meteors expected per hour. Often the rates you actually see will be lower. This shower regularly has high rates of meteors from 14 to 30 per hour and either side of maximum still produces good rates.
The Northern Taurids: October 20 - December 10
This is the second radiant of the Taurids showers and are associated with Comet 2P/Encke. Seen from late evening to early morning. The Northern Taurids peak around November 12th and with New Moon occurring on the 15th, the night will be perfectly dark.
The Leonids are a well-known shower due to the famous meteor storm it put on with rates of thousands of meteors per minute during a 15-minute period, on November 17, 1966. Unfortunately, the Leonids have never managed anything near that again and this year we can expect a Zenith Hourly Rate of 10-20 meteors per hour on the 18th. No Moon interference will enhance the view.
Keeping the best until last, the Geminids always put on a spectacular display. Reaching ZHRs of up to 150 meteors per hour, this is one not to miss. Radiating out from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins, they often produce bright, medium-speed meteors. Best seen after midnight until dawn and with New Moon on the 15th and the peak expected on the 14th, it should be a fantastic night of stargazing.
report your fireball sightings!
The Fireballs in the Sky team are based at Curtin University. They are on the lookout for new Citizen Scientists to report bright meteors.