Sunday, December 22, 2013 5:06
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
A new year brings with it a new opportunity to watch shooting stars, and thankfully NASA has released a list of the easiest to observe, most active meteor showers that astronomy enthusiasts can expect to see in 2014.
Things kick off almost immediately with the Quadrantids, a lesser known meteor shower that is named after a now-extinct constellation. The Quadranids will peak in the early hours of January 3, when it will feature approximately 80 meteors per hour traveling at speeds of more than 25 miles per second.
“The Quadranids, will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching,” officials at the space agency said. “The very young moon will set early, presenting an excellent opportunity for meteor observations,” though they warn that it the show will only last a few hours.
The radiant will be located in the northern tip of the constellation Bootes, meaning that only observers living in the northern hemisphere will be able to see this meteor shower in the night sky. Fortunately, a live Ustream feed of the event will be provided by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the space agency confirmed on Friday.
Two different meteor showers will become active in April. First up is the Lyrids, which are active from April 16-25 and will peak on April 21-22. They will be followed by the Eta Aquariids, which will first become visible on April 19 but will not peak until May 5-6.
The Lyrids contain few bright meteors, and NASA said that light from the gibbous moon will make them difficult to see, while dark skies should allow the Eta Aquariids to put on a good show (at least, in the Southern Hemisphere, where the majority of the activity will be visible).
The Southern Delta Aquariids will be visible from July 12-August 23, with a peak activity of 20 meteors per hour on July 28-29. NASA said that 2014 “should be a good year” for this particular meteor shower, as it occurs during a new moon. It will be best viewed from a dark location sometime after midnight, they added.
The Perseids, which NASA calls “one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains,” will be active from July 17-August 24 and will peak on August 12-13. Sadly, despite its reputation, the space agency said that it will be less visible in 2014 due to a nearly full moon.
The Orionids are active from October 2-November 7, peaking on October 21-22, and NASA said that this should be “a favorable year” for this particular meteor shower as there will be no interference from the moon. These “bright” and “quick” meteors were formed from the debris of Halley’s comet and will be most radiant just north of the star Betelgeuse.
The Leonids follow from November 6-30, peaking in November 17-18. Typically a “modest shower” that peaks “in the dark hours before dawn,” a waning crescent moon should allow for the Leonids to put on a decent performance, NASA said. Rounding out the year will be the Geminids, which are active from December 4-17.
“The Geminids are typically one of the best and most reliable of the annual meteor showers,” the space agency said. “This shower is considered one of the best opportunities for younger viewers who don’t stay up late, because it gets going around 9 or 10 pm local time. This year, the last quarter moon will rise around midnight, making the prime time for viewing the first half of the night.”