Even like life on Earth continues to deteriorate, cool things happen in space. If you missed the great fusion of Jupiter and Saturn by chance last night, the heavens are graduated to you because you are rejected and given something else to look at: Tthe Ursid meteor shower will peak tonight in the northern hemisphere.
Here’s a little background to tonight’s celestial show, and what you need to know to see how it illuminates the sky near you.
What is Ursid’s meteor shower?
It should not be confused with the Geminid Meteor Shower—which peaked earlier this month (only one event on December a crowded astronomical calendar,, although they are still expected sporadically visible through Sunday) —tUrsids are an annual event that runs across the sky around the winter solstice. They are not as numerous as the Geminids, which peaked on December 13-14 with 120 meteors per hour, according to Space.com.
Ursids do not cause as much hype, mainly because they come in bursts of about 5-10 at their peak. Yet they are still brilliantly smoldering rocks when you manage to catch them, and occasionally generate more than 100 meteors per hour, although this is very rare, according to EarthSky.
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Meteorologist Joe Rao explains that the Ursids originate from near the Little Bear:
The Ursids are so named because they seem to flutter from the vicinity of the bright orange star Kochab, in the constellation Ursa Minor, the little bear. Kochab is brighter than the two outer stars in the bowl Little Dipper (the other is Pherkad), who seems to be marching in a circle like a guard around Polaris, the North Star. But while the Geminids are at the top of most meteor observers, they “must see,” the Ursids are usually at the bottom and are usually given scant attention, except for the most attractive meteor observers.
As EarthSky notes, Ursids are a newer phenomenon and were only discovered in the 20th century. You will need a dark sky to catch them.
How to see Urside
I will not stray you: It will help you a lot if you are in the northern hemisphere; people in the southern hemisphere will not have much chance of seeing the show.
There is no hidden secret catch a good look. Aare you really warm clothes and a darkened sky, away from any and every light pollution. Be prepared to stay out late, too EarthSky notes:
If you look from the location of the northern hemisphere at the time of the solstice, you will find the Great Bear and the star Kochab in the northeast around 1:00 a.m. local time. This is approximately the time of night you will want start watching this meteor shower.
They mindnorthern latitudes, as in Canada, will make it easier to spot Ursides, but you’ll need to do a little mapping of the stars to catch them in your full shine. As EarthSky writes:
From far northern latitudes (for example, in Canada), the Little Bear is circumpolar (out all night). From there you will find the star Kochab below Polaris, the North Star, at night. The Kochab (and all the Little Bear stars) orbit Polaris counterclockwise throughout the night, with this star reaching the peak of the night during the hours before dawn.
This is all comes with a warning that you will need to stay outside in the cold to watch the sky, maybe a few hours. But you have bothered too much this year. Just get a warm coat. Tfresh air will come in handy.