All the Sky's a Stage: Autumnal Meteor Showers Put On a Show

All the Sky's a Stage: Autumnal Meteor Showers Put On a Show

Julie Leibach
Published: 11/02/2010

A Gemenid display. Credit: Jimmy Westlake/NASA

Some dazzling performances are worth missing bedtime for. Mark your calendars for upcoming meteor showers, and get the lawn chairs ready. Shooting stars—tiny dust particles that typically break off of comets—occur year-round and are visible across the United States, although clear air on cold nights enhances viewing. As autumn wanes, look for two showers in particular: The Leonids will pass through earth’s atmosphere November 7–28, peaking between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on the 18th. The Geminids (possibly originating from an asteroid, and often the most prolific) follow on December 4–16, with the big act expected after moonset on the morning of the 14th. Find a spot outside, away from urban light, and let your eyes adjust. Don’t focus on one place; meteor showers span much of the sky. Settle in for at least half an hour, and enjoy a show that’s been 4.5 billion years in the making. For more information on meteor shower-watching, see EarthSky's meteor shower guide.

For more family-friendly activities from our November-December issue, click here.