Meteor Showers in 2020 That Will Light Up Night Skies
A general rule of thumb with meteor showers: You are never watching the Earth cross into remnants from a comet’s most recent orbit. Instead, the burning bits come from the previous passes. For example, during the Perseid meteor shower you are seeing meteors ejected from when its parent comet, Comet Swift-Tuttle, visited in 1862 or earlier, not from its most recent pass in 1992.
That’s because it takes time for debris from a comet’s orbit to drift into a position where it intersects with Earth’s orbit, according to Bill Cooke, an astronomer with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
The name attached to a meteor shower is usually tied to the constellation in the sky from which they seem to originate, known as their radiant. For instance, the Orionid meteor shower can be found in the sky when stargazers have a good view of the Orion constellation.
How to Watch
The best way to see a meteor shower is to get to a location that has a clear view of the entire night sky. Ideally, that would be somewhere with dark skies, away from city lights and traffic. To maximize your chances of catching the show, look for a spot that offers a wide, unobstructed view.
Bits and pieces of meteor showers are visible for a certain period of time, but they really peak visibly from dusk to dawn on a given few days. Those days are when Earth’s orbit crosses through the thickest part of the cosmic stream. Meteor showers can vary in their peak times, with some reaching their maximums for only a few hours and others for several nights. The showers tend to be most visible after midnight and before dawn.
It is best to use your naked eye to spot a meteor shower. Binoculars or telescopes tend to limit your field of view. You might need to spend about half an hour in the dark to let your eyes get used to the reduced light. Stargazers should be warned that moonlight and the weather can obscure the shows. But if that happens, there are usually meteor livestreams like the ones hosted by NASA and by Slooh.
While the International Meteor Organization lists a variety of meteor showers that could be seen, below you’ll find the showers that are most likely to be visible in the sky this year.
The Quadrantids give off their own New Year’s fireworks show. Compared with most other meteor showers, they are unusual because they are thought to have originated from an asteroid. They tend to be fainter with fewer streaks in the sky than others on this list.
There are records from ancient Chinese astronomers spotting these bursts of light more than 2,700 years ago. They blaze through the sky at about 107,000 mph and explode about 55 miles up in the planet’s atmosphere. This shower comes from Comet Thatcher, which journeys around the sun about every 415 years. Its last trip was in 1861 and its next rendezvous near the sun will be in 2276.
The Eta Aquariids
The Eta Aquariids are one of two meteor showers from Halley’s comet. Its sister shower, the Orionids, will peak in October. Specks from the Eta Aquariids streak through the sky at about 148,000 mph, making it one of the fastest meteor showers. Its display is better seen from the Southern Hemisphere where people normally enjoy between 20 and 30 meteors per hour during its peak. The Northern Hemisphere tends to see about half as many.
The Southern Delta Aquariids
They come from Comet 96P Machholz, which passes by the sun every five years. Its meteors, which number between 10 and 20 per hour, are most visible predawn, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. It tends to be more visible from the Southern Hemisphere.
The Perseids light up the night sky when Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The dirty snowball is 17 miles wide and takes about 133 years to orbit the sun. Its last go-round was in 1992.
Usually between 160 and 200 meteors dazzle in Earth’s atmosphere every hour during the display’s peak. They zoom through the atmosphere at around 133,000 mph and burst about 60 miles overhead.
The Orionids are an encore to the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, which peaks in May. Both come from cosmic material spewed from Halley’s comet. Since the celestial celebrity orbits past Earth once every 76 years, the showers this weekend are your chance to view the comet’s leftovers until the real deal next passes by in 2061.
The Leonids are one of the most dazzling meteor showers and every few decades it produces a meteor storm where more than 1,000 meteors can be seen an hour. Cross your fingers for some good luck — the last time the Leonids were that strong was in 2002. Its parent comet is called Comet-Temple/Tuttle and it orbits the sun every 33 years.
The Geminids, along with the Quadrantids that peaked in January, are thought to originate not from comets, but from asteroid-like space rocks. The Geminids are thought to have been produced by an object called 3200 Phaethon. If you manage to see them, this meteor shower can brighten the night sky with between 120 and 160 meteors per hour.
The Ursids tend to illuminate the night sky around the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. They only shoot around 10 to 20 meteors per hour. They appear to radiate from Ursa Minor, and come from Comet 8P/Tuttle.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
The new year will kick off with a major meteor shower, and all signs are pointing toward a dazzling display in the sky on Friday night as long as Mother Nature cooperates.
The Quadrantids often go overlooked during the frigid nights in early January, but people that brave the cold this year may get rewarded as the ingredients are coming together for a good showing over North America.
January’s lone meteor shower will peak on Friday night into the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning and, under ideal conditions, can spark over 100 meteors per hour in the dark winter sky.
Unlike most meteor showers that have a broad peak over several days, the Quadrantids have a sharp peak that lasts just a few hours. In 2020, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) is projecting that the Quadrantids will peak around 3 a.m. EST Saturday, which is an ideal time for North American observers as it will be dark across the continent.
The best time to watch a meteor shower is when the radiant point is high in the sky, and that will be the case for the Quadrantids when they peak early Saturday morning. Shooting stars will originate from near the constellation Ursa Major, more commonly known as the Big Dipper. However, shooting stars will be visible in all areas of the sky.
Finally, the moon will be below the horizon during the second half of the night, greatly reducing the amount of natural light pollution.
With these three ingredients coming together almost perfectly, folks across North America may be able to count anywhere from 60 to 200 meteors per hour before daybreak on Saturday morning, according to the IMO.
The only obstacle that onlookers will face is cloudy weather.
Unfortunately for stargazers in the eastern U.S., a large storm system could potentially disrupt viewing conditions.
The storm is expected to produce rain over areas from New England to the Appalachians, the Ohio Valley and the lower Great Lakes region to end this week, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
„The rain is likely to become fragmented as it moves into the Northeast; some locations will get soaked and others will barely receive a couple of showers,” he said.
In the West, a series of unrelenting storms spilling into the region will also promote cloudy and unsettled conditions, thus reducing chances to catch a glimpse of the shower.
For those in South America, even if clear weather prevails on Friday night skywatchers across the continent will not be able to see the Quadrantids as the shower is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
With all signs pointing to 2020 being a good year for the Quadrantids, stargazers will need to do their part to be in the right place to see the flurry of meteors early Saturday morning.
Meteors associated with the Quadrantids can be faint, so being in a dark area is crucial. Light pollution from nearby cities or highways can wash out these dimmer meteors, greatly reducing the number of shooting stars able to be seen.
People should also pack their patience when heading out for the meteor shower.
„You will want to dedicate at least 45 minutes to an hour to get the most out of your meteor shower experience,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. „Your eyes need a solid half hour to adjust. Then give yourself another half hour to take in the meteors.”
After the Quadrantids have passed, stargazers will need to wait until the spring for the next opportunity to see a meteor shower. The meteor shower drought will come to an end on the night of April 22 with the peak of the Lyrids.
As the new year gets underway, a robust storm will deliver rain to areas from New England to the Appalachians, the Ohio Valley and the lower Great Lakes region to end this week.
But, forecasters say the first large storm of 2020 will eventually evolve into more than a rainstorm.
By the time the weekend begins, the second phase of the storm will turn wintry and is forecast to bring accumulating snow to portions of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys as well as the Appalachians this weekend.
As the warmer and first part of the storm evolves and moves along, rain over the south-central United States on Thursday morning will overspread the Ohio Valley Thursday afternoon and then much of the Northeast during Thursday night and Friday.
The rain is likely to become fragmented as it moves into the Northeast; some locations will get soaked and others will barely receive a couple of showers.
„Those with plans in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Pittsburgh from Friday to Saturday should be prepared for wet weather,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
At the onset of the rain, cold ground conditions can produce freezing rain and black ice in portions of central and northern New England and central and northeastern New York state. A repeat of the major ice storm that hit these same areas early this week is not anticipated.
„It is the second part of the storm that is likely to trend colder and allow a transition to snow or a rain and snow mix from west to east,” Anderson said.
„The storm is now expected to move more slowly, last longer and cause an area of snow to occur father east but over a much larger area than planned from earlier this week,” Anderson added.
Cities such as Kansas City, Missouri; Davenport, Iowa; and Milwaukee should avoid accumulating snow from the storm, while Chicago will be on the northwestern edge.
Areas most likely to receive a 1- to 3-inch snowfall with locally higher amounts will extend from southern Illinois to northern Ohio and southern Michigan during Friday night.
Portions of West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware New Jersey, New York and New England are all likely to have some snowflakes before the storm moves away this weekend.
Since the lower levels of the atmosphere will be warm to start off, much of the snow may melt as it falls. Even so, it is possible that portions of the Appalachians will receive enough snow from Saturday to Sunday to make roads slippery with a few inches possible on non-paved surfaces over the higher elevations.
Areas from New York to Boston, as well as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., could also have a period of wet snow at the tail end of the storm from Saturday night to Sunday. Whether or not the snow creates slippery spots will depend on the duration of that snow. Where the snow lasts a few minutes, no accumulation would occur. Where it snows for several hours could be a different story.
Those with flexible travel plans may want to adjust their departure. Friday night to Saturday may be the better of the two weekend days in the Northeast, while Sunday may be the better choice in the Midwest in terms of avoiding icy and snow-covered roads.
Portions of major highways that could have slippery and dangerous conditions include I-64, I-70, I-77, I-79, I-80, I-81, I-84, I-87, I-88 I-90 and I-91.
The cold pocket of air that catches up to the storm is not expected to last long. Milder air with temperatures well above freezing will surge northeastward spanning Monday and Tuesday.
Download the free AccuWeather app to check the forecast in your area. Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
A period of heavy rain and thunderstorms in Indonesia’s capital city turned deadly and caused significant travel disruptions.
The downpours began Tuesday evening and continued into Wednesday morning inundating large swaths of the city and surrounding areas under feet of water.
At least nine deaths have been reported as of Wednesday evening local time, according to the Associated Press.
More than 19,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the flooding and several parts of the city remained without power as of Wednesday night.
The severe flooding caused widespread travel disruptions to road and rail services in and around the city.
Flight delays and cancellations were also reported at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport. The airport was forced to close for a time during the worst of the heavy rain.
The flooding has been reported as the worst to hit the city since 2013, according to Bloomberg.
In a statement to reporters, Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan said around 120,000 people have been deployed to help with water rescues and evacuations.
|Indonesia rescue team evacuate residents from their flooded house at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia’s capital just after residents celebrated New Year’s Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes.(AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)|
Widespread rainfall amounts of 150 mm (6 inches) were reported throughout the city along with local amounts up to 250 mm (10 inches). The hills outside the city recorded up to 370 mm (14.57 inches).
Most of this rain fell within a six-hour period Tuesday night.
The areas that were hit the hardest remained under 600-900 mm (2-3 feet) of water late Wednesday. Power outages remained in force to limit the risk for electrocutions in these communities.
Additional downpours are possible across the region into Friday which may renew or spark additional flooding problems.
The wet season typically lasts into early April, with January and February being the wettest months of the year in Jakarta. The average monthly rainfall in both months is near 300 mm (12 inches).