Ursid Meteor Shower 2020

Ursid Meteor Shower 2020

14/12/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020, the Ursid meteor shower peaks between 21-22 December, with 5-10 meteors an hour.

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Ursid Meteor Shower

Ursid Meteor Shower

Hot off the tail of the stunning Geminid meteor shower last week comes the Ursids, peaking 21-22 December between midnight and dawn.

The Ursid meteor shower is a more low-key affair. This minor meteor shower produces about 5-10 meteors per hour, but this year could be a good show if the skies are clear. The Moon will be setting just before midnight on 21 December, leaving dark skies for what could be a good show.

Best viewing will be 21-22 December between midnight and dawn.

The Ursids are produced by dust grains left behind by comet 8P/Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. Comets constantly shed dust and stones as they fly around the Sun, and it is this debris along Tuttle’s path that causes the Ursids.  As the debris hits Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, it heats up and disintegrates in flashes of light that we call meteors.

How to watch the Ursids

Adapted from Stellarium

Adapted from Stellarium

The Ursids are named after the constellation Ursa Minor as this is the direction from which they appear to originate. While the meteors originate from this point they can be best seen 30 degrees away from Ursa Minor, stretching across large sections of the sky.

To view the Ursids from the UK, head out between midnight and dawn on 21-22 December.

You do not need to look in any particular direction. Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).

The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights.

As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient.

You can look for the Ursids on other nights as well. The shower runs annually between 17-25 December.

Adapted from Stellarium

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic
Credit: National Space Centre

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Ursids!

Stay tuned in 2021 for upcoming meteor showers:

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2019 include:

Quadrantids

Comet of Origin: The cause of the Quadrantids is a bit of a mystery, but it’s thought that the asteroid 2003 EH1 is the source of the debris.
Radiant: the northern tip of Boötes
Peak Activity: 03-04 January 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: Some of the brighter Quadrantid meteors may be able to overcome the glare of the waning gibbous moon.

Lyrids

Comet of Origin: Thatcher
Radiant: constellation Lyra
Peak Activity: 22-23 April 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: peak viewing to take place in the dark hour before dawn April 22, after moonset.

Eta Aquarids

Comet of Origin: Halley
Radiant: constellation Aquarius
Peak Activity: 05-06 May 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 20-60 meteors per hour
Notes: A rather wide waning crescent moon.

Delta Aquarids

Comet of Origin: 96P/Machholz
Radiant: constellation Aquarius
Peak Activity: 27-30 July 2021 (no defined peak)
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 20 meteors per hour
Notes: Glaring light of a waning gibbous moon

Perseids

Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Perseus
Peak Activity: 11-12 August 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 90 meteors per hour
Notes: The waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, providing dark skies

Draconids

Comet of Origin: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner
Radiant: constellation Draco the Dragon
Peak Activity: 08 October 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: A few an hour (In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour.)
Notes:

Orionids

Comet of Origin: Halley
Radiant: constellation Orion
Peak Activity: 21 October 2021 (before dawn)
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: Strong moonlight will interfere this year.

Taurids

Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 11-12 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: Dark skies from midnight to dawn.

Leonids

Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 16-17 November 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour
Notes: Bright waxing gibbous moon will be out nearly all night long.

Geminids

Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 13-14 December 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour
Notes: Waxing gibbous moon will set in the early hours.

Ursids

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: Dec. 21-22, 2021
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour
Notes: First quarter moon will set in the evening, providing dark skies

 

Clear skies!