There is something magical about catching a shooting star — even more so when it’s a full-blown meteor shower, filling the night sky with beautiful streaks of light.
The good news? “There are meteor showers coming in 2020 that you don’t want to miss,” Jackie Faherty, PhD, senior scientist and senior education manager jointly in the Department of Astrophysics and the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
According to NASA, “a meteor is a space rock — or meteoroid — that enters Earth's atmosphere. As the space rock falls toward Earth, the resistance — or drag — of the air on the rock makes it extremely hot. What we see is a ‘shooting star.’ That bright streak is not actually the rock, but rather the glowing hot air as the hot rock zips through the atmosphere. When Earth encounters many meteoroids at once, we call it a meteor shower.”
While space rocks hurtling towards Earth may sound a bit scary to some, these meteoroids are usually small. “We get all of these teeny tiny pieces — some as small as a grain of sand, some a little bit larger — that burn up in the atmosphere of the Earth and put on a gorgeous show for us,” explains Faherty.
Here are the four biggest meteor showers of 2020:
The New Year started with a bang thanks to the Quadrantids meteor shower, which took place on Jan. 3 and 4, 2020. The meteor shower boasts more than 100 meteors per hour, notes Faherty. “Definitely worth it to get out there and try and see some of these fireballs in the sky,” the astronomer says.
Next up is the Eta Aquarids meteor shower in the pre-dawn hours of May 4 to 6, 2020. This meteor shower comes from the famous Halley’s comet. Keep your eyes open, though, since these meteors are known for their speed, according to NASA.
Over the summer, there is what Faherty calls the “show-stopper meteor shower of the year”: the Perseids meteor shower. In fact, according to NASA, it’s considered the best one. “This is usually a gorgeous event,” Faherty says, adding that it’s a “fantastic light show.” It will take place August 11 and 12, 2020.
Last but not least, the Geminids meteor shower will take place December 13 and 14. It’s “very special,” says Faherty, because this meteor shower originates from an asteroid and not a comet. Expect more than 100 meteors per hour, though they may be harder to see since there will be a full moon.
Most meteor showers have a two-day peak, according to NASA, and can typically be seen without a telescope or binoculars.
When keeping your eyes to the sky in the hopes of spotting a meteor shower, Faherty recommends being “extremely patient” above all. “Try and catch one — you never know,” she says.
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