Which meteor showers are happening in 2021?
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With a number of meteor shower displays due to take place in 2021, here’s your upcoming shooting star schedule.
January – Quadrantids
Kicking off 2021 is the Quadrantid meteor display, which will be sky high between Sunday December 27 and Sunday January 10 – peaking on the night between Sunday January 3 and Monday January 4. Astronomers say the Quadrantids have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year, but tend to fall short due to poor weather conditions experienced in the Northern Hemisphere at that time of year.
April – Lyrids
Active between Friday April 16 and Sunday April 25, 2021’s Lyrid meteor shower will be at its peak the night between Thursday April 22 and Friday April 23. Named after the Lyra constellation, these meteors are created from debris from the Thatcher comet, which takes just over 400 years to orbit the sun. Lyrids are some of the oldest recorded meteor showers - with ancient Chinese texts recording their visibility some 2,500 years ago.
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May – Eta Aquarids
Named after the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation, Eta Aquarii, the Eta Aquarids meteor shower will take place between Monday April 19 and Friday May 28 – with its peak occurring the night between Wednesday May 5 and Thursday May 6. One of the strongest displays of the year, Eta Aquarid occurs when the Earth passes through the debris stream of Halley’s Comet and tiny particles burn up in the upper atmosphere. Scheduled to be at its most active at around 3am, you may see up to 50 meteors per hour if the skies are clear enough.
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August – Perseids
Peaking on the night between Thursday August 12 and Friday August 13, the Perseid meteor shower is made from pieces of space debris from the Swift-Tuttle comment, and is named after the Perseus constellation. At its peak, viewers could potentially spot 60 to 100 meteors in an hour if the sky is clear enough that night.
October – Draconids
The first of October’s two meteor shower displays, the Draconids are due to appear overhead between Wednesday Oct 6 and Sunday October 10, peaking between the 8th and 9th. Named after the Draco constellation, the Draconids occur when the Earth passes through debris dust created from the Giaconini-Zinner comet.
October - Orionids
Named after the Orion constellation, the Orionid meteor shower can be seen any time between Sunday October 2 and Sunday November 7 – but its peak is the night between Thursday October 21 and Friday October 22. Astronomers estimate that around 20 meteors can be seen every hour. Much like May’s Eta Aquarids, the Orionids also occur thanks to debris from Halley’s Comet.
November - Leonids
2021’s Leonid meteor shower will peak between Tuesday November 16 and Friday November 17, but can be potentially seen anywhere in the sky between Saturday November 6 and Thursday November 30. It is named after the Leo constellation, and occurs when the Earth passes through debris left over from the Tempel-Tuttle comet.
December – Geminids
One of the year’s most spectacular displays, the Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night between Tuesday December 13 and Wednesday December 14, with an estimated 120 meteors per hour. However, the Geminids can occur anywhere between Saturday December 4 and Friday December 17.
How to maximise your stargazing potential
- Make sure you’re comfortable and wrapped up warm. Even during the summer months, the temperature can still drop late at night.
- It can take your eyes around 45 minutes to completely adjust to the dark sky, so be patient if you don’t see anything straight away.
- While most meteor showers can occur any time after 10pm, many astronomers suggest trying to catch a glimpse in the early hours of the morning when it’s still dark.
- Lay on your back or recline in a deck chair – it will give you the best view and saves you craning your neck up for long periods of time.
Some of the best spots across Suffolk and Norfolk to go stargazing include these designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites:
- Westleton Common, Westleton
- Suffolk Coast Nature Reserve, Walberswick
- Great Ellingham Recreational Ground, Attleborough
- Wiveton Downs, Wiveton
- Barrow Common, Norfolk coast
- RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve, Titchwell