The final major meteor shower of every year (unless one surprises us!) is always the December Geminid shower, often producing 50 or more meteors per hour. It is a beloved shower, because, as a general rule, it’s either the August Perseids or the December Geminids that give us the most prolific display of the year. Best of all, the new moon guarantees a dark sky on the peak night of the Geminid shower (mid-evening December 13 until dawn December 14). But the nights on either side of the peak date should be good as well. Unlike many meteor showers, you can start watching the Geminids by 9 or 10 p.m. local time. The peak might be around 2 a.m. local time on these nights, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world. With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14.
Great viewing for 2014 as this is right next to the dark (new) moon. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes. The Quadrantid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity. Some meteors will be visible each night from 1 Jan to 6 Jan, but the best show will be on this evening. The maximum number of meteors expected to be visible from a dark location is around 80 per hour (ZHR). The Moon will be 22 days old at the time of peak activity, and so will present minimal interference.
This shower is made up of remnants from the famed Halley’s Comet and spans from October 2 through November 7. It will peak overnight on the 22nd with up to 20 sightings per hour. Because it is the night before the New Moon, 2014 is an excellent year to view this shower. The meteors will appear to be originating from the Orion constellation.
The last meteor shower of the year will span from the 17th through the 25th, though it will peak overnight on the 22nd with about 10 sightings per hour. Because the shower’s peak coincides with the new moon, it should be a great time to view the meteors and close up a fantastic year of skywatching. These meteors will appear to originate from the Ursa Minor constellation.
The Quadrantids meteor shower can yield as many as 40 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Bootes. Visibility will be reduced on account of a bright second quarter Moon, but you may be able to spot a few during the night… Begin the new year by looking up!
Jupiter is sure to delight all who view it, from professional observatories to amateurs with handheld binoculars. Make sure to check out its four Galilean moons and see if you can make out colorful cloud bands or the Great Red Spot. If you’ve ever considered dabbling in planetary imaging, tonight (adjacent to a dark new moon) would be the perfect night to start!
Smack dab on the new moon, this promises to be nice dark viewing. These shooting stars are composed of the remnants of Comet Halley. Meteors—up to 30 per hour in the Northern Hemisphere and 60 per hour in the Southern—will appear to radiate from Aquarius.
The Quadrantids meteor shower can yield as many as 40 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Bootes. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Begin the new year by looking up!
The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The nearly new moon will not be a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for what should be good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
The Quadrantids meteor shower can yield as many as 40 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Bootes. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. Bummer though: this will occur during a nearly full moon, so all but the brightest meteors will be washed out. Still, looking up at the sky isn’t a bad way to start the new year!