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Ursid Meteor Shower

Love shooting stars? The annual Ursid meteor shower, or Ursids, peaks each year around the time of the Winter Solstice. Learn what to expect this year.

Updated for 2020

Every late December, skywatchers can head outside and watch the annual Ursid meteor shower, which peaks each year around the time of the Winter Solstice, December 21-22. It’s the second of two meteor displays in December, the first being the Geminids, which peaked on the 13th.

What Causes the Ursids?

Created by dust from the tail of the comet Comet 8P/Tuttle, the Ursids are not typically one of the strongest meteor showers commonly observed. These meteor showers generally produce anywhere from 5 to 15 meteors per hour.

Every meteor shower has a “radiant point,” which is the point in the sky from where they appear to emanate; the showers are usually named for the constellation in which the radiant points lie. The Ursids appear to come from The Little Dipper asterism, which is in the constellation Ursa Minor. This is why these showers are named the Ursids.

There have been a few occasions when the Ursids have surprised observers with a sudden outburst many times their normal hourly rate (over 100 per hour in 1945), but such cases are very few and far between.

For Best Viewing

If you want to watch the Ursids, find an open space, nice and dark, free of light pollution, with an unobstructed view of the sky. Bundle up, and plan to spend a few hours watching for them, anywhere between midnight and dawn.

What’s In Store For 2020?

This year’s Ursids also coincide with a First Quarter Moon, so it is best to wait until the Moon sets around midnight if you care to watch. The meteors from this shower appear to streak from near the bright star Kochab in the bowl of the Little Dipper, which can be found about halfway up in the northern sky. In contrast to the Geminids, most of these meteors are quite faint and only number about 10 per hour at best. They are, perhaps the most neglected meteor shower of the year, in part due to the cold weather.

Farmers' Almanac - Itch
Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Marilyn

I saw a few very early this morning while traveling thru milaca. Mn

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