See the Almanac’s Meteor Showers Guide for 2016 for the dates of all the principal meteor showers during the year—plus viewing tips.
Meteor Showers Viewing Tips
- Yes, you can see these meteor showers from ANYWHERE in the sky, provided it’s clear and dark, away from all the city lights. Bright moonlight, within a few days of a full Moon, will also spoil the view, reducing the number of meteors that you will see.
- Where to look? The best place to start is between the radiant and the zenith (straight above you). The radiant is where the meteors appear to start from, such as the constellation Perseus from which the Perseids appear to radiate.
- When to look? The time of the year for each shower is determined by when Earth in its orbit crosses the stream of meteoroids. On the chart below, see the “date of maximum,” which shows when meteor showers will be the strongest.
- Note that the “best viewing” times are usually predawn and late evening. In nearly all showers, the radiant is highest just before dawn. (The Geminids are visible all night long, since Gemini arises just an hour or two after nightfall; the radiant is highest a little after midnight.) Sporadic meteors (unrelated to a shower) can be seen on any night, but increase in frequency after midnight and peak just before dawn.
- Starting around midnight, your location on the globe spins around to the forward-facing half of Earth (in relation to the direction of orbit). At dawn, your location on the globe directly faces the direction in which Earth is traveling along its orbit. So between midnight and dawn, you’ll be viewing the meteors head-on, for a more frequent display.
- You don’t need any special equipment. In fact, binoculars do not work for meteor showers. The naked eye is best.
- Spread a blanket on the ground and look up in the dark night sky.
For more information, click here to read our article, “What are Meteor Showers: Facts About Shooting Stars.”
2016 Meteor Showers Guide
Note that the meteor shower dates do not change much from year to year.
- “Predawn” means an hour or so before morning twilight. Best time to view most major showers.
- “Late evening” means approximately between 10 p.m. and midnight (or a little past).
In general, most major meteor showers are best seen after midnight; some do not even appear until after then. Usually, a better time to see them is after 2 a.m., and the best time is about an hour or so just before morning twilight. Geminids, however, can be seen starting earlier, such as around 9 or 10 p.m., until morning twilight. Sometimes Draconids may be visible at nightfall through early evening.
See the monthly Sky Watch for highlights of the night sky and a printable sky map!