When is the next meteor shower? See the Almanac’s 2019 Meteor Shower Calendar for the dates of all the principal meteor showers, plus meteor shower viewing tips.
This week’s highlight: A Meteor Outburst from The Unicorn? It’s a bit of a wildcard, but if you’re willing to spend 15 minutes watching the skies Thursday night, November 21, you may see a rare meteor shower called the “Alpha Monocerotids.” The meteors shower will radiate from the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn.
Normally, this meteor shower produces little to no shooting stars so we don’t even include it on our annual chart. But on four occasions: 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995, skywatchers were surprised by tremendous meteor outbursts—a night sky fireworks display.
How to view? Face east-southeast on Thursday evening at 11:50 P.M. EST. Do not be late as this outburst (if it happens) may be over in 15 minutes. The meteor rates could run anywhere from 100 to “possibly” 1,000 per hour.
- Note: In North America, this shower is best viewed from the eastern regions; the showers will originate from a place (“radiant”) one-quarter up the skies above the east-southeast horizon. For those living in MST time, the showers will radiate near the horizon (9:50 p.m.) so fewer “Unicorn” meteors will be visible. On the Pacific coast, the peak is 8:50 p.m. PST, so this will probably be below the horizon.
Please note that this is a prediction by meteor experts, not a “certain event.” See more details from the American Meteor Society.
And be sure to read our meteor shower viewing tips (below) about how to best catch a shooting star!
Image Credit: Sky & Telescope Will the rare Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower have a rare outburst? Two Alpha Monocerotid radiants are marked, 1985 and 1995.
2019 Meteor Shower Calendar
Is there a meteor shower tonight? When is the next meteor shower? Find dates and times of “best viewing” below.
Note that the meteor shower dates do not change much from year to year, though the peak of a shower may vary by a day or two. Find viewing tips for the two “biggies” here: the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Geminid Meteor Shower.
|Principal Meteor Showers|
|SHOWER||BEST VIEWING||POINT OF ORIGIN||DATE OF MAXIMUM*||NO. PER HOUR**||ASSOCIATED COMET|
|Eta Aquarid||Predawn||SE||May 4||10||Halley|
|Delta Aquarid||Predawn||S||July 30||10||—|
|Draconid||Late evening||NW||Oct. 9||6||Giacobini-Zinner|
|Taurid||Late evening||S||Nov. 9||3||Encke|
|Andromedid||Late evening||S||Nov. 25–27||5||Biela|
|Geminid||All night||NE||Dec. 13–14||75||—|
|*May vary by one or two days **Moonless, rural sky Bold = most prominent|
- “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.
Meteor Showers Viewing Tips
- The most common question is “Where can I see the meteor showers?” The answer is: ANYWHERE in the sky! Yes, for this type of celestial wonder, your specific location does not matter.
- When are meteor showers? See the chart above for “date of maximum,” which lists the peak of each meteor shower when the shooting stars will be most frequent. The time of the year for each shower is determined by when in Earth’s orbit it crosses the stream of meteoroids.
- What time can I see the meteor showers? The answer is: See the chart above for “best viewing.” In nearly all showers, the radiant is highest just before dawn. But anytime beween midnight and dawn gives you a view of most meteors head-on, for a more frequent display. 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.
- Note: the Geminid meteor shower is visible all night long, since Gemini arises just an hour or two after nightfall; the radiant is highest a little after midnight.)
- 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. See the “point of origin” above.
- How to look? You don’t need any special equipment. In fact, binoculars do not work for meteor showers. The naked eye is best.
Dark Skies, Clear Skies Needed!
- The sky needs to be dark, away from all the city lights. Try to get to a viewing site as far as possible from bright lights. This may require planning—for a country drive or a campout.
- Bright moonlight, within a few days of a full Moon will reduce the number of meteors that you will see. Check our Full Moon Chart.
- Obviously, the weather needs to cooperate so that the skies are clear.
- Look for a location with a wide-open view of the sky, free from obstructions like tall trees or buildings.
- Spend about 20 minutes outside for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness of the night sky.
- Spead a blanket on the ground and get cozy!
For more information, click here to read our article, “What are Meteor Showers: Facts About Shooting Stars.”