Howard's Astronomical Adventures

Meteor Showers

Meteor Shower Addiction

Animated Meteor Image

The sight of a bright streak across a dark sky is exciting. Watching a meteor shower is even more exciting: you never know what you might see that night. It's one of the easiest sky watching activities to do, you don't need any equipment other than your own eyes. The only requirements are to find a spot with a dark sky, lay back in a good chair and stay awake.

The first time I watched a meteor shower was in August 1996: the Perseids (actually I am not sure what year it was until I find my notes). After that I wanted to experience more. I've tried to see many showers but sometimes the weather or the moon does not cooperate.

Perhaps the most memorable meteor show for me (so far) was the 1998 Leonids. If I recall correctly the predictions were for a good display but nothing prepared me for the sights we saw that night. While the actual number of meteors was not tremendous, it was the type of meteors that impressed. An incredible display of very bright meteors occurred virtually all night. Perhaps one fireball every few minutes. Some would cast a shadow, some left trails (called a 'meteor train') that lingered in the sky for minutes. Quite simply it was unbelievable and I am glad to have been in a dark sky to experience it.

I encourage everyone to spend a night watching a meteor shower.


Helpful Hits for Observing Meteor Showers

Find a good site

It is important to be away from the city lights. Although you will see several bright meteors from the city, faint meteors will be lost in the sky glow. This is the single most important requirement. A meteor showers "show" is much better with a dark sky.

Prepare for the weather

Even in summer it gets cool in the middle of the night. Bring extra clothing. During the winter meteor showers, like the Geminids, it can be brutal at night. With proper clothing and a source of heat it is very manageable. Sleeping bags are excellent to lay on or be in.

A Good Chair

A comfortable reclining chair allows you to look up overhead without straining your neck. You could be sitting in this chair for hours so it should be comfortable to you.

Bring a few provisions

Some coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks are important. First it will help to keep you alert and second it provides some energy for your body. A hot drink will also warm you up.

That's it! The experience is very enjoyable when you have a group of friends. However, most of the time I have observed alone. Sometimes solitude can be good for the soul, don't be afraid to try it.

Links to Information on Meteor Showers:

From the following links you can find out when the meteor showers occur, what they may be like, and reports from other observers:

Meteor Showers Online

Gary Kronk's original comet and meteor page updated and revised but still has one of the best overall collections of information for beginners and experienced observers.

The Internal Meteor Organization

Technical site with observing data summaries, future calendar with predicted conditions. Very good.

Wikipedia: Meteor Showers

Nice summary article with additional links and information on meteor showers.