Shooting stars 2020: when, where and how to observe them

Here are the most beautiful and suggestive “shooting stars” of 2020

shooting stars

A shooting star is the trail that forms in the sky when a meteor (an extraterrestrial rock) enters our atmosphere and due to the friction with the latter, the meteor ignites by tracing a luminous strip above our heads.
The meteors in question can have different origins, fragments of rocks attributable to cosmic collisions such as between asteroids, from the explosion of a distant star that destroyed planets in its system or even to the dismemberment of a comet by the gravitational field of a planet in the their path.
Often it happens that meteors do not travel alone but gather in the so-called meteor showers, when then the latter settle near the Earth's orbit we can see our sky "crawling" with falling stars.
Meteor showers take their name from the constellation from which they seem to come, this point in space is called radiant, and to measure its intensity, the Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR) is used, which measures the number of meteors observable in an hour when the swarm is at Zenith.

Here are the most beautiful and suggestive “shooting stars” of 2020

A shooting star is the trail that forms in the sky when a meteor (an extraterrestrial rock) enters our atmosphere and due to the friction with the latter, the meteor ignites by tracing a luminous strip above our heads.

The meteors in question can have different origins, fragments of rocks attributable to cosmic collisions such as between asteroids, from the explosion of a distant star that destroyed planets in its system or even to the dismemberment of a comet by the gravitational field of a planet in the their path.

Often it happens that meteors do not travel alone but gather in the so-called meteor showers, when then the latter settle near the Earth’s orbit we can see our sky “crawling” with falling stars.

Meteor showers take their name from the constellation from which they seem to come, this point in space is the radiant, and to measure its intensity, twe use the Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR), which measures the number of meteors observable in an hour when the swarm is at Zenith.

When to watch the shooting stars

Here are the main meteor showers, and when to observe them during this year!

From April 15th to 28th: ​​Lyrids

With peak expected for April 22, 2020, this swarm has as its progenitor body the comet C / 1861 G1 Thatcher. In the periodic passage of the Earth among the remnants of this comet, we can observe the “shooting stars” known with the name of Lyrids.

Curiosity: it is the oldest meteor shower ever observed. The first observations date back to 687 BC. about, by Chinese astronomers.

From April 19 to May 28: Eta Aquaridi

Originating from Halley’s comet, these meteors peak around May 6th. To see them, you need to look towards the constellation of Aquarius.

Curiosity: The meteor shower has its peak of intensity a few hours before dawn, to observe them at their best so you will need to get up very early!

From May 22 to July 2: Aries (diurnal swarm)

The peak intensity for this meteor shower is scheduled for June 7. With a ZHR (Hourly Zenithal Rate; it is the number of meteors observable in an hour, always with radiant at Zenit) equal to 60, their radiant is in the area of ​​the Aries constellation.

Curiosity: they are a diurnal swarm, that is they are not visible on average at night, because their radiant is close to the Sun. They are partially visible just after sunrise. The progenitor body is still uncertain.

From July 12 to August 19: South Delta Aquaridi

With a peak expected between 27 and 28 July, their radiant is in the constellation of Aquarius. Originating from the fragments of Comet 96P Machholz, they have a ZHR of 20 meteors visible per hour during the peak.

Curiosity: they have a “brother” swarm: North Delta Aquarids, with radiant in the constellation of Aquarius. The latter are active from 15 July to 25 July but with a lower intensity of phenomena.

From July 17th to August 24th: Perseidsshooting stars sky perseids2019

The “tears of San Lorenzo” will cross our skies from 17 July to 24 August. They are known for their intensity, which will be greatest on the night of August 12th. Associated with the comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle, they are bright and fast meteors with radiant in the constellation of Perseus. There are about 100 shooting stars observable with the naked eye every hour.

Curiosity: In 1866 the astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli discovered, thanks to the passage to the perihelion of the comet Swift-Tuttle, that rainfall was linked to comets.

From October 2nd to November 7th: Orionids

Even the Orionids, like the Eta Aquarids, originated from the passage of the Earth among the remains of Halley’s Comet. With peak expected between 21 and 22 October, they have a ZHR of 20. The radiant is the constellation of Orion.

Curiosity: the Orionids, according to a 1982 study, present two different points where the swarm activity peaks.

From November 1st to November 25th: Tauridi Sud

With peak on November 5, the radian is in the constellation of Taurus.

Curiosity: they are one of the three swarms associated with the comet Encke. The first of these in “temporal” order are the Beta Taurids, active from 5 June to 18 July. Also associated with the comet are the Northern Taurids, visible in the second half of November.

From November 14 to November 21: Leonids

With peak on November 17, this swarm was born from the residues of Comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle.

Curiosity: periodically, every 33 years, meteor storms associated with Comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle occur, like the last one, in 2001.

From December 7 to December 17: Geminids

With a ZHR of 120, very high then, the swarm will presumably peak on December 14th. The radiant is located in the sky area included in the Gemini constellation.

Curiosity: Geminids are the only ones to come from an asteroid instead of a comet. The asteroid 3200 Phaethon is the body from which it is thought to originate, but its identity is still uncertain, however.

From December 17th to December 26th: Ursids

The peak is expected on December 22nd. The Ursids will be visible looking towards the radiant, the constellation Ursa Minor.

Curiosity: the progenitor body of the Ursids is still mysterious, but it is thought to be the comet Tuttle. This would then periodically leave residues, giving rise to the light trails.

How to observe the shooting stars

  1. To increase the chance of observing the greatest number of shooting stars, find a dark place, possibly far from the city lights. If the Moon is not present in the sky, you will have more chances to admire the show!
  2. Wear comfortable and warm clothing, especially in the cold months…
  3. Wait a few minutes before starting to observe: let your eyes get used to the dark. If you are in the countryside or in the mountains, lie down on a blanket: you will thus have everything (or almost) the sky before your eyes!
  4. Remember to point your gaze to the radiant: for example, if you want to try to see the Perseids, find the constellation of Perseus in the sky, perhaps with the help of a sky map or an App to see the stars! Remember to use flashlights and red lights in these cases. This is so as not to wean your eyes in the dark!
  5. Enjoy the show!

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