How to See the Ursid Meteor Shower at Its Peak Tonight
Despite the fact that life on Earth continues to deteriorate, cool things are happening in space. If you happen to miss the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn last night, heaven has forgiven you for your omission and gave you something else to look at: The Ursid meteor shower will peak tonight in the Northern Hemisphere.
Here’s a little background story for today’s sky show and what you need to know to see how it lights up the sky next to you.
What is the Ursid meteor shower?
Not to be confused with the meteor shower Geminids, which peaked at the beginning of the month (only one event in the December populous astronomical calendar, although it is expected , that they will from time to time can be seen throughout the Sunday) – Ursids – an annual event that takes place in the sky … around the winter solstice. According to Space.com, there are not as many of them as the Geminids, which peaked on December 13-14 at a rate of 120 meteors per hour. Ursids do not cause as much excitement, mainly because at their peak they appear in bursts of 5-10 pieces. However, they still remain shiny smoldering rocks when you manage to catch them, and sometimes they generate up to 100 meteors per hour, although this is very rare, according to EarthSky .
Meteorologist Joe Rao explains that the Ursids originate near Ursa Minor:
The Ursids are so named because they seem to fan out from the vicinity of the bright orange star Cochab in the constellation Ursa Minor, the little bear. Cochab is the brighter of the two outer stars in the Ursa Minor bowl (the other is Ferkad), which appear to march in a circle like sentries around the North Star. But while the Geminids are at the top of the “must-see” list of most meteorite watchers, the Ursids are usually at the bottom and usually receive little attention except for the most diligent meteor watchers.
As EarthSky notes, the Ursids are a newer phenomenon and were only discovered in the 20th century. To catch them, you need a dark sky.
How to see the Ursids
I will not mislead you: it will help a lot if you are in the Northern Hemisphere; people in the Southern Hemisphere have little chance of seeing this show.
There is no hidden secret to catching a good view. In fact, all you need is warm clothing and a darkened sky, away from any light pollution. Be prepared not to go out late, as EarthSky notes:
If you look from the northern hemisphere around the solstice, you will find that the Big Dipper and the star Cochab are high in the northeast at about 1:00 am local time. Around that time of the night, you will want to start watching this meteor shower.
For those in more northern latitudes, such as Canada, it will be easier to spot the Ursids, but you will need to do some star map to capture them in all their glory. As EarthSky writes:
From far northern latitudes (for example, in Canada) Ursa Minor is circumpolar (does not shine all night). From here, at nightfall, you will find the star Cochab under the North Star, the North Star. Kochab (and all the stars of Ursa Minor) orbit the Pole Star counterclockwise during the night, with this star reaching its highest point during the night, hours before dawn.
All of this is accompanied by a warning that you need to stay outside in the freezing cold to watch the sky, possibly for several hours. But you’ve been locked up too much this year. Just take a warm coat. Fresh air is good for you.