© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

Ursid meteor shower

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 (391 days ago)

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The Ursid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 22 December 2016. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 17 December to 25 December.

Annual meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. As pebble-sized pieces of debris collide with the Earth, they burn up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km, appearing as shooting stars.

By determining the speed and direction at which the meteors impact the Earth, it is possible to work out the path of the stream through the Solar System and identify the body responsible for creating it. The parent body responsible for creating the Ursid shower is 8P/Tuttle.

Observing prospects

The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 10 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula.

From Ashburn (click to change), the radiant of the shower will appear 31° above your northern horizon at midnight. This means you may be able to see around 5 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be high in the sky, maximising the chance of seeing meteors.

The radiant of the Ursid meteor shower is at around right ascension 14h20m, declination 78°N, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above.

The Moon will be 23 days old at the time of peak activity, presenting minimal interference.

To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

The sky on 22 December 2016
Sunrise 07:25
Sunset 16:50
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

23-day old moon
Age of Moon
23 days

All times shown in EST.
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:16 13:03 17:49
Venus 10:19 15:23 20:27
Moon 01:18 07:10 13:02
Mars 10:56 16:21 21:46
Jupiter 01:37 07:19 13:00
Saturn 06:32 11:20 16:08


The Handbook of the British Astronomical Association.

Image credit

© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.




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