The Ursids bring the last meteor shower of 2022
Just in time for the holidays, a gift comes from the sky: 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. While rates are not as high as other annuals, this year’s storm will peak night of December 21 with a new moon at only 3% fullnesswith particularly good visibility for people in the Northern Hemisphere, where it will be visible.
Occasionally, the Ursids have been known to exceed 25 meteors per hour and even 100 meteors per hour in the years 1945 and 1986. .
Expert reveals the best way to see a meteor shower
The Ursids rain started on December 13 and will be active until December 24. Still, Cooke suggests watching the meteor shower close to the night of its peak — if not that night, then the one before or after.
“They’re not very dim, but not very bright either. The Ursids are a good medium strength meteor shower,” Cooke said. “It’s certainly not the Geminids or Perseids, but hey, if you have time to kill while waiting for Santa, it’s probably a good thing to do.”
The Ursids are often overlooked due to their proximity to the Geminids rain, which peaked on December 13 and can also be observed through December 24.
“Meteor watchers historically haven’t spent much time with this one since it falls so close to Christmas,” Cooke said. Graduate meteorologists used to call them the “Cursed Ursids” because no one wanted to get stuck observing them.”
But any meteor shower can still be an awe-inspiring sight. If optimal viewing conditions are enough to entice casual onlookers to brave the cold to spot an Ursids meteor, Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society, recommends viewing during the early morning hours of Dec. 22.
“(The Ursids) can be very erratic. I’ve watched them under perfect conditions and seen none, and at other times I’ve seen them erupt at 25 an hour,” Lunsford said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get, but the conditions are almost perfect this year. If you go to a dark sky, you will probably see between five and ten Ursids per hour.”
The Ursids come from Comet 8P/Tuttle (also known as Tuttle’s Comet), an older comet that doesn’t produce much debris. In the sky, the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Ursid Minor, better known as the Little Bear. To distinguish these meteors from the Geminids, viewers must locate the constellation and identify which meteors appear to be coming from their direction.
“They’re visible all night, because the radiant is very, very far north and it 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 it’s best to watch the last few hours before sunrise. ”
The further north you are, the better the visibility for 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 downpour is the last of the year, sky observers won’t have long to wait for the peak of the Quantrantids meteor show, which will ring in the new year just a little too late on the night of January 3, 2023.
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