Watching the Ursid meteor bathe in 2021
The annual Ursid meteor bathe runs from about December 17 to 26 yearly. It at all times peaks across the December solstice, which, in 2021, comes on December 21. The Ursids’ peak is most likely the morning of December 22. But, in 2021, the full moon comes on December 18-19. So there can be a shiny moon within the morning sky throughout the Ursids 2021 peak. Still, if previous expertise is any indication, you would possibly see an Ursid meteor or two streaking alongside within the moonlight. Here’s what to observe for.
Generally, the Ursids are a low-key affair, providing maybe as many as 5 to 10 meteors per hour in a dark sky with no moon. In uncommon cases, bursts of 100 or extra meteors per hour have been noticed at instances. Those Ursid bursts maintain Northern Hemisphere meteor-watchers on this bathe, regardless of their peak within the chilly of winter.
If you wish to attempt watching the Ursids in 2021, or in any 12 months, a country location is finest. Dress warmly! Bring a sleeping bag. And plan to spend a number of hours reclining below a darkish sky free of artificial lights, starting across the wee morning hours of December 22. Will you see some? It’ll be robust within the moonlight … however perhaps!
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Ursid meteor bathe radiant level
The chart above exhibits the Big and Little Dipper asterisms – within the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor – for which the Ursid meteor bathe is called.
As it’s possible you’ll know, all meteors in annual showers have radiant factors; the showers usually take their names from the constellations during which their radiants lie. If you hint the paths of the slow-moving Ursid meteors backward, they seem to return from the part of sky marked by the Little Dipper star Kochab.
If you look from a Northern Hemisphere location across the time of the solstice, you’ll discover the Big Dipper and the star Kochab nicely up within the north-northeast at round 1 a.m your native time. That’s in regards to the time of night time you’ll wish to begin watching this meteor bathe.
From far-northerly latitudes (for instance, in Canada), the Little Dipper is circumpolar (out all night time). From there, you’ll discover the star Kochab beneath Polaris, the North Star, at dusk. Kochab (and all of the Little Dipper stars) circle Polaris in a counterclockwise course all through the night time, with this star reaching its excessive level for the night time within the hours earlier than daybreak.
Read more: Kochab and Pherkad guard the North Celestial Pole
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Here’s some Ursid meteor bathe historical past for you
If you resolve to observe it, you would possibly get pleasure from realizing that the Ursids are a relatvely new meteor bathe. Some meteor showers, such because the Perseids in August, have been watched every year on the similar time for a lot of centuries. The Ursid bathe was first noticed across the flip of the twentieth century, when a skywatcher seen that some meteors seen round this time of 12 months weren’t random of their course of movement throughout our sky’s dome, however as a substitute appeared to radiate from close to the star Kochab within the bowl of the Little Dipper asterism.
As the years of the twentieth century handed, cautious observers seemed for, and noticed, occasional Ursid outbursts.
Although the Ursid meteor bathe has been noticed for simply over a century – and though charges are usually round 5-10 meteors per hour – the Ursids have gained recognition lately as a result of of those potential outbursts.
Bursts of about 100 meteors per hour occurred in 1945 and 1986. An surprising enhance of 30 per hour got here in 1973.
Not nice for the Southern Hemisphere
By the best way, the radiant level for the Ursids is simply too far north on the sky’s dome to be simply seen from the Southern Hemisphere’s temperate latitudes. The star Kochab – close to the Ursids’ radiant level – can’t be seen from there. In different phrases, for temperate latitudes within the Southern Hemishere, the radiant stays beneath the horizon. Since the meteors radiate out in all instructions from the radiant level, you would possibly see that – from these southerly latitudes – half the meteors or extra won’t ever make it above your horizon.
From the Southern Hemisphere, you would possibly see just a few Ursids come streaking up out of your northern horizon across the time the bathe peaks. Or you would possibly see no meteors in any respect.
Bottom line: If you wish to watch the Ursids peak on the morning of December 22, 2021, discover a nation location the place you may camp out. Dress warmly! And plan to spend a number of hours reclining below a dark sky. The predawn hours are often probably the most favorable. Unfortunately, this 12 months, a shiny moon is in the best way.
EarthSky’s meteor guide for 2022, with December 2021 meteors