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 2021?
In 2021, it’s predicted that the Ursids will peak on December 22, which is only a few days after the Full Cold Moon. Unfortunately, this means that there will be there will be a bright Moon in the morning sky which may make spotting them harder. However, if you have time, bundle up and spend a few hours looking up during the early morning hours of December 22, 2021.You may just be pleasantly rewarded.
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.