Geminid Meteor Shower
The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks next week. Sadly, the Moon will be near-full brightening the sky for most of the night causing rates to be lower. However, the Geminids will still put on a good show pretty much anywhere that isn’t overcast, so don’t worry. Southern Hemisphere viewers will see lower rates, with the peak being ~40-60 meteors/hour in some locations, so you won’t be missing out as was the case for the Persieds earlier this year. Use the Fluxtimator to estimate the rate in your location.

Meteors will be visible when the radiant point is above the horizon from your location. The radiant point is in the constellation Gemini (Jupiter will be too, so get your binocs/telescopes), right next to the Orion constellation. You can spot meteors anywhere in the sky and it is not necessary to look towards the radiant point as some may believe. So go out, find somewhere dark, look up and enjoy the show.

The annual Perseid meteor shower is my favourite and the most famous stargazing event during the summer. It puts on a great show this week as you can see 60 or more “shooting stars” per hour! The meteor shower lasts until late August but as Phil Plait said the best time to watch is Wednesday night after local midnight - that’s when your part of the Earth is facing into the oncoming meteoroids and you see more.

Here are some general tips which make stargazing better:

  • Give your eyes 20 minutes to adjust to the dark. Any exposure to bright lights will instantly ruin your eye’s acclimatization to the dark.
  • If possible go outside the city, or search for good local stargazing places
  • For the best chances of spotting a shooting star, scan the whole sky repeatedly
  • Here’s NASA’s visibility map from last year:

The meteors are bits of rocky debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle as it orbits the Sun. When Earth goes through the comet’s path, some of the bits of comet dust slam into the atmosphere.
Have further questions? You’ll probably get an answer here.

Perseid Meteor Shower
Not as great as last year but still worthy of watching. The Full Moon will compete with the shower this year, lowering the peak-rates to around 40 or 60 meteors per hour at best, even in the darkest of skies. The peak time is Aug 10-13 but you can see meteors for about a week before and after, so start watching now! The earlier you watch, the less the moon will be in the way, so watching a few days before the peak might actually be better if not the same. For more stargazing events this month, see What’s Up for August. Also, Semi-Relevant/Informative post from last year



NASA is predicting up to 100 per hour radiating from Perseus during the overnight hours of Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th. 

Here’s how to see it:

1. Drive as far away from the city as you can.

2. Pick the darkest area you can find and face northeast, toward Casseopeia and Perseus. The prime viewing time will be 4am Eastern.

3. Kick back and watch the show.

4. Tweet your best pics, or send them to Tariq Malik, the managing editor at (

5. Call in sick.

6. Go to bed.


We hope tonight* you will stay off tumblr long enough to catch the entirely new Camelopardalids meteor shower, which promises be a good one. Comet dust from 209P/LINEAR, sloughed off 200 years ago in its orbit around the sun is due to enter our atmosphere and provide us a remarkable show. That is provided you find somewhere with clear skies away from sources of light.

Sidereus Nuncius, sometimes called Starry Messenger, is a short work by Galileo Galilei in 1610–or almost 200 years before 209P/LINEAR laid the groundwork for tonight’s show. Above is the verso of Galileo’s drawings of the Pleiades star cluster, which makes an exceptional background for our shooting stars. The edition is available for view online in our Heralds of Science collection, a set of books donated to the Smithsonian Libraries by noted book collector and founder of the Burndy Library, Bern Dibner. Our Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology is named in his honor.

Make Galileo proud.

(*Just fyi: this was originally posted on May 23, 2014—the “tonight” we were referring to. Hoping this slight edit will help with any confusion and unnecessary time away from tumblr. The International Meteor Organization has a calendar of meteor showers, if you’re interested.)

Geminid Meteor Shower 2014
Went up to Mt Lemmon again for this one. There were some nice clouds near the bottom of the mountain from the rain earlier that day. Luckily the rain clouds cleared after sunset. I would have stayed out until sunrise and captured more but my lens was fogging up too much, needed some actual anti-fog lens cleaner. Was still great to watch! The next meteor shower peaks Jan 2-4. This is a composite of about 10 meteors. Also on Flickr // 500px


These are the depictions of the most intense meteor shower in recorded history – the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. The Leonid meteor shower is annually active in the month of November, and it occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. While the typical rates are about 10 to 15 meteors per hour, the storm of 1833 is speculated to have been over 100,000 meteors per hour, frightening people half to death.
Here’s how Agnes Clerke, an astronomer witnessing the event, described it:  “On the night of November 12-13, 1833, a tempest of falling stars broke over the Earth… The sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs. At Boston, the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm.” (x)