If you are stressed out by what’s going on on Earth right now, it’s not a bad idea to look up to the sky. The last three months of 2020 is an unusually busy time for celestial events. This Halloween, a blue moon will appear in the sky for the first time in 20 years. Soon after that, a refrigerator-sized asteroid is expected to “buzz-cut” Earth the night before Election Day. And in the coming weeks, a number of rare meteor showers will wash over the night sky in peak brilliance.
Just this past weekend, the ε-Geminid meteor shower peaked and will be visible to the naked eye until October 27. The Orionids meteor shower is expected to peak on Tuesday night. And this Saturday (October 24), another meteor shower called the Leonids Minorids will reach its maximum brightness.
A meteor shower is the result of remnants from past comet passings intersecting with Earth’s orbit and burning through our atmosphere. During a peak, which happens when Earth’s orbit crosses through the thickest part of the cosmic stream, a meteor shower could produce 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
The Orionids, for example, comes from the cosmic debris left off by Comet Halley when it passed Earth in 1986. (It takes a long time for a comet’s debris to drift to a position that intersects with Earth’s orbit.) Comet Halley flies by Earth every 76 years. So, if you miss the peak window this time, you’ll have to wait till after the comet passes by again in 2061.
Don't forget the Orionids #meteorshower has started and will continue through October! ☄️
Peak is on the 20th, ~20 meteors/hour. pic.twitter.com/sWbKUvWFr1
— Latest in space (@latestinspace) October 19, 2020
Fortunately, there are plenty other meteor showers to watch this year. Below we’ve compiled a list of major meteor showers, selected by the International Meteor Organization, their active dates and peak windows.
A meteor shower is most visible after midnight and before dawn on the days of new Moon or when the moon is far from being full. You can also check out astronomy sites, such as timeanddate.com, for more specific viewing tips.
Orionids: active from October 2 to November 7. Peak on October 20.
Leonids Minorids: active from October 19 to October 27. Peak on October 24.
Northern Taurids: active from October 20 to December 10. Peak on November 12.
Leonids: active from November 6 to November 30. Peak on November 17.
α-Monocerotids: active from November 15 to November 25. Peak on November 21.
Monocerotids: active from November 27 to December 20. Peak on December 9.
σ-Hydrids: active from December 3 to December 20. Peak on December 9.
Geminids: active from December 4 to December 17. Peak on December 14.
Ursids: active from December 17 to December 26. Peak on December 22.