Look up to the sky for the last meteor shower of the year | CNN


A gift from heaven arrives just in time for the holidays: the Ursid meteor shower. This celestial event will be the last meteor shower of 2022.

The Ursids typically only produce about five to ten visible meteors per hour, according to EarthSky. Although rates aren’t as high as other annuals, this year’s rain is expected to peak on the night of December 21 with a new moon at just 3% fullness, providing particularly high visibility for people in the hemisphere. north, where it will be visible. .

At times, the Ursids have been known to exceed 25 meteors per hour, and even exceeded 100 meteors per hour in the years 1945 and 1986. But NASA isn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary this year, according to Bill Cooke, head of the bureau of the NASA meteoroid environment. .

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An expert reveals the best way to see a meteor shower

The Ursid rain began on December 13 and will be active until December 24. Still, Cooke suggests watching the meteor shower near the night of its peak — if not that night, then the night before or after.

“They’re not very weak, but they’re not very bright either. The Ursids are a good medium-strength meteor shower,” Cooke said. “It’s definitely not the Geminids or the Perseids, but hey, if you have some time to kill while waiting for Santa, that’s probably a good thing to do.”

The Ursids are often overlooked due to their proximity to the Geminid Shower, which peaked on December 13 and can also be observed until December 24.

“Meteor watchers historically haven’t spent much time with this one because it falls so close to Christmas,” Cooke said. “Graduate meteor science students called them the ‘cursed Ursids’ because no one wanted to get stuck observing them.”

But any meteor shower can still be an awe-inspiring sight. While optimal viewing conditions are enough to entice casual viewers to brave the cold for a chance of spotting an Ursids meteor, Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society, recommends viewing in the wee hours of the morning of December 22.

“(The Ursids) can be very erratic. I’ve seen them in perfect conditions and I’ve seen none, and at other times I’ve seen them explode at 25 per hour,” Lunsford said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get, but the conditions are almost perfect this year. If you go out into dark skies, you’ll probably see between five and 10 bears per hour.

The Ursids come from Comet 8P/Tuttle (otherwise known as Tuttle’s Comet), an older comet that doesn’t produce much debris. In the sky, meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Ursid Minor, more commonly known as Ursa Minor. To differentiate these meteors from the Geminids, viewers must locate the constellation and identify meteors that appear to be coming from its direction.

“They’re visible all night, because the radiant is very, very far north and never sets,” Lunsford said. “During the evening hours, (the radiant) will be just a hair above the northern horizon, which means most meteors will be blocked by the horizon, so your best bet is to watch during the last two hours before dawn.”

The further north you are, the better the visibility of this event, Lunsford said. (For those in the southern hemisphere, the shower will not be visible, as the radiant will not rise above the horizon.)

Although this shower will be the last of the year, skywatchers won’t have long to wait for the peak of the Quantrantids meteor display, which will ring in the new year a bit late on the night of January 3, 2023.

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