2019 SWE Meteor Shower Calendar – so you know when and where to look for the best meteor shows.
We compiled this Meteor Shower Calendar after the first major meteor shower of the year – the Quadrantids. Observing conditions were perfect, with the peak over Europe and without moonlight interference. Indeed, the Quadrantids produced an amazing show! But there are many more meteor showers in 2019:
|Southern Delta Aquarids
Let us take a look at all of these in more detail.
The first significant meteor shower of spring, the Lyrids, are nearly completely washed out by a waning gibbous Moon only days after full. The Lyrids are a moderately strong shower with up to 15 meteors per hour under favourable observing conditions and a dark sky. The peak is expected on April 23 around 0h UT. For observers in mid-northern latitudes the Moon rises around 23:30 local time, leaving the first two hours of the night moon-free. The Lyrid radiant is halfway between the constellations Lyra and Hercules, so it will be low in the eastern sky during the dark evening period.
Brilliant Lyrid fireball shoots down the Milky Way. Note the reflection in the sea. Photo: Marko Korošec.
This is more of a southern meteor shower, best seen from places near the equator and in the southern hemisphere, but there is still something to be seen in the southern half of Europe. Eta Aquarids are a major meteor shower, producing between 40 and 100 meteors per hour under clear, dark skies when seen in the southern hemisphere. The rate rapidly dwindles with as you go north. The southernmost locations in Europe, such as Canary Islands, southern Spain and Portugal, Malta and far southern Greece may still see a good show with up to 20-40 Eta Aquarids in the predawn sky. Observers above 40°N may expect a sprinkling of Eta Aquarids in the final two predawn hours, while observers above 50°N will not be able to see any Eta Aquarids. The Eta Aquarids peak on May 6 at 14h UT, but the peak of the shower is usually prolonged and good rates can be seen one or two nights before and after the peak. New Moon is on May 5 so it will be out of the sky for this shower.
Southern Delta Aquarids & Alpha Capricornids
After almost three months meteor activity picks up again. During the final week of July a number of meteor showers are active, known as the Aquarid-Capricornid complex. Again these are better seen from the southern hemisphere and close to the equator, but still viewing conditions in Europe are better than for the preceding shower. The Southern Delta Aquarids peak on July 30. Peak rates from the southern hemisphere may reach 25 to 40 meteors per hour, but a more modest 10-15 meteors per hour are typically seen from the southern half of Europe. The (Alpha) Capricornids also peak on July 30 with very modest rates of only several meteors per hour, however, the shower is well known for its bright, often flaring meteors and fireballs.
The Perseids fall victim to the bright Moon, just two days before full. There will still be plenty of reasons to watch, though! The Perseids peak around 2-15h UT on August 13. On peak night the Moon will set around 3:30 local time, just before the beginning of morning twilight, so the final predawn hour or two should still be good. While under clear, dark skies the Perseids produce around 80 meteors per hour, the bright moonlit sky will reduce the number considerably, down to maybe 10-20 meteors per hour. There may be a strong enhancement of activity in the predawn hours of August 13, centered around 2h UT, possibly with meteors brighter than average.
Brilliant Perseid fireball, August 12, 2010. Photo: Jure Atanackov.
The Orionids open ‘Meteor Season’ – three months of frequent meteor showers and generally high meteor activity. The Orionids peak on October 22. A moderately strong meteor shower, the Orionids typically produce about 20 meteors per hour under dark skies. This year a waning crescent Moon will be in the sky in the morning sky, together with the Orionids. Moonlight will brighten the sky and reduce the number of meteors, however, brighter shower members will still be visible.
The Taurids are a very interesting meteor shower, with activity spread over several months. There are actually two branches of the shower – the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. The Southern Taurids peak on October 10 with about 5-7 meteors per hour, while the Northern Taurids peak on November 12 also with about 5-7 meteors per hour. While not particularly strong, the Taurids are well known for being rich in bright meteors and fireballs.
Brilliant Southern Taurid fireball, October 30, 2015. Photo: Marko Korošec.
The Leonids are swamped this year by a waning gibbous Moon (63% illuminated) in Cancer, just west of Leo. Expect about 3-5 meteors per hour under bright moonlit skies on the peak night on November 18.
The best annual meteor shower, the Geminids also conicides with a nearly full Moon, however, even under bright moonlit sky it will be well worth watching. The shower peaks on December 14, just two days after Full Moon. But even in bright moonlight, under clear skies there may be 20-30 bright Geminids visible. Still well worth watching! Additionally, the peak comes on a Friday night.
The last significant meteor shower of the year are the Ursids. The shower peaks on December 23. Typically the shower produces about 10 meteors per hour, however, this year there might be an enhancement in rates as the Earth is set to encounter a denser filament of dust particles. The viewing conditions are excellent: peak timing favours Europe and the thin waning crescent Moon rises just before dawn and is not a factor. Certainly good reasons to go see the Ursids!
Other notworthy meteor showers in 2019
There may be some additional opportunities to see interesting meteor shower activity in 2019.
A possible return of the July gamma Draconids could occur on July 28. The shower produced a significant outburst in 2016, with about 100 meteors per hour – comparable to the strongest annual meteor showers. There are no predictions for this year, but it may be worth watching on July 28.
The Draconids may return with another outburst in 2019. This periodic meteor shower is typically barely detectable, but returns occassionally with strong outbursts. The Draconids produced a strong outburst with a peak of about 150 meteors per hour in 2018. This year the shower may return with an outburst of faint meteors on October 8, with the peak around 14:45 UT. This timing is poor for Europe as it is still daylight at the time, however, the tail end of activity may persist by the time twilight reaches Europe. Interestingly, the conditions are in some ways similar to 2012: a strong outburst was observed the year before, and then the Draconids returned with an intense outburst of very faint meteors. Definitely one to watch this year!
Two Draconids near the radiant during the 2018 outburst. Photo: Jure Atanackov.
This is it. 2019 is not the best year for meteor showers with two out of three big ones hindered by a nearly full Moon. Nevertheless, there will be plenty opportunities to see, photograph and enjoy meteor showers in 2019. Join us under the skies!