Meteor shower guide: what is a meteor and when is the next meteor shower in the UK?

Find out when to look out for meteor showers such as Perseids, Draconids and Orionids in the UK in 2022

Perseid meteor shower with tree in foreground
Published: August 26th, 2022 at 6:09 am
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Few celestial events are more beautiful than a meteor shower, streams of cosmic debris that enter Earth’s atmosphere at such speeds they leave streaks of light in their wake.

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Meteor showers occur several times a year, and can last weeks, with a 'peak' shower usually taking place in the middle of this period.

For you best chance of sighting a meteor shower, it's best to find somewhere as far away from light pollution as possible. Our national parks are a great place to start, as well as Dark Sky Parks ad Dark Sky Reserves. If these areas of protection feel a bit too out of reach, fear not, you can still view meteor shows from a hilltop, riverbank, or even the window of your house.

Starlight above chapel
The less light pollution there is, the more you will see in the night sky/ Credit: Getty

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors are pieces of interplanetary matter. When meteors enter Earth's atmosphere they 'burn up', leaving steaks of light in their wake. This is often referred to as a shooting start.

A meteor shower is when a number of meteors, all originating from a specific parent comet, enter Earth's atmosphere at once.

Milky Way stargazing at Kielder Observatory

When to see meteor showers in 2022

There are a number of meteor showers that occur annually, each spanning a few days or even weeks. At some point during the shower there will be a 'peak' period when the rate of meteors is at its highest – this is usually the best time to head outside and look to the skies.

Here are the meteor showers to look out for in 2022.

Perseids

Occurs: 17 July–24 Aug | Peak: 12–13 August

During its peak, over 100 meteors may be seen in just one hour, each with a train. Associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Draconids

Occurs: 6–10 October | Peak: 8–9 October

In 1933 and 1946, Draconids produced some of the most active displays in the 20th century. In recent years, however, it has been a less vigorous meteor shower than most, with a variable rate per hour.

Orionids

Occurs: 2 Oct–7 Nov | Peak: 21 October–2 November

Thought to have come from the famous Halley’s Comet, these fast-moving meteors fall at a rate of 25 per hour. The Orionids sometimes produce bright fireballs.

Taurids

Occurs: 10 Sep–20 Nov (Southern H); 20 Oct–10 Dec (Northern H) | Peak: 12–13 November

Slow-moving meteors but sometimes very bright, with an average rate of five per hour. This long-lasting shower occurs every year from late October to the end of November, peaking in mid November. Watch for fireballs this year.

Leonids

Occurs: 6–30 November | Peak: 17–18 November

Fast, bright meteors with fine trains, associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Geminids

Occurs: 4–20 December | Peak: 14–15 December

Easier to spot than other showers on this list, Geminids typically has a rate of 150 fast-travelling meteors per hour.

Ursids peak

Occurs: 17-26 December | Peak: 22–23 December

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This sparse shower produces five meteors at its peak. Associated with comet 8P/Tuttle.

Authors

Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamSection editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the Section Editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.

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