2024 is not a great year for observing meteor showers, chiefly because the moon interferes with so many of the peak display times. In the table below, you’ll see that the big two showers, the Perseids and the Geminids, both have moon interference. The Geminids coincide with an almost full moon. The Lyrids, Orionids, and Leonids also have plenty of moon glare to contend with.

However, we’ve still got opportunities this year to enjoy the simple pleasure of these events. A meteor (or ‘shooting star’) is nothing more than a dust trail, and it creates some of the most beautiful and mesmerizing nighttime viewing that can last from hours to days.

If you’ve never been meteor hunting before, you may wonder how to spot and record them when they seemingly appear anywhere and at random intervals.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

This comprehensive guide is aimed at making your meteor hunting experience less daunting and more pleasurable by walking you through the best meteor showers this year, where to look for them, and how you can make the most of your adventure.

2024 Meteor Showers At a Glance

NamePeakConstellationMoonRate/hr
QuadrantidsJan 02-03Boötes65%25
LyridsApr 20-21Lyra94%18
Eta AquaridsMay 5-6Aquarius4%30
Southern Delta AquaridsJul 27Aquarius59%20
Alpha CapricornidsJul 29Capricornus37%<5
PerseidsAug 11-12Perseus38%100
DraconidsOct 7-8Draco18%10-20
OrionidsOct 20-21Orion80%20
TauridsNov 4-5 (southern)

Nov 11-12 (northern)
Taurus8%

72%
5
LeonidsNov 16-17Leo100%15
GeminidsDec 13-14Gemini94%120
UrsidsDec 21-22Ursa Minor55%5-10
Quadrantids (2025)Jan 02-03Boötes14%25

Keep reading for full details on each shower.

The Lyrids | April 22-23, 2024

The best time to watch this year’s Lyrids is in the wee hours of Sunday, April 21. Sadly, the moon is almost full and will interfere with this year’s performance.

The only saving grace is that the moon sets around 5:30 in the morning, which coincides with the constellation of Lyra being up near the zenith and the shower’s peak. Lyra is this shower’s ‘radiant’, which means the part of the sky the shooting stars appear to come from. The downside of viewing at this time is that dawn comes less than an hour later.

Meteors can be seen between April 15 to 29 but the Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the morning of Sunday, April 21, which is when they are expected to produce up to 18 shooting stars per hour.

As is the case with them each year, viewers in the northern hemisphere can view it better compared to those in the southern half of the world.

These meteors are caused when Earth passes through the dust trail left by the comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher). None of us will see this in our lifetime because it only orbits the sun every 415 years. The last time it got close to our star was in 1861, the next will be 2276.

Eta Aquarids | May 05-06, 2024

This shower is a relatively weak affair in the northern hemisphere, producing only up to 30 trails per hour, and often fewer than that. We can see shooting stars for a good few days on either side of the peak though.

We had a lunar wash-out with this shower last year, but they’re coming back strong in 2024 with the moon below the horizon for almost the whole night and only 4% lit when it rises at 5 a.m. With a good chance that this year’s display could be better than usual, the Eta Aquarids are one to watch out for.

Southern Delta Aquarids | July 27, 2024

As this shower hits its peak, the last quarter moon will be nearby and significantly reducing the number of meteors we’ll see. Watching a few nights later will see the moon below the horizon and perhaps the chance to see more action than on the night of the peak.

This meteor shower runs from late July to the first half of August and will peak on the morning of July 27. It is best seen a couple of hours before dawn when the hourly rate is expected to reach 15-20 meteors.

Alpha Capricornids | July 29, 2024

Accompanying the Delta Aquarids meteor shower is another, subtler one that peaks at the same time straddling both northern and southern hemispheres.

While this meteor shower, even at its maximum, does not produce more than 5 meteors per hour, it is reputed for bright fireballs that can be easily seen. Since it peaks a few nights later than the Deltas, the moon is diminished and has less of an impact.

Perseids | August 11-12, 2024

The Perseids are one of the most popular showers each year, reputed for producing large, bright meteors at excellent rates of 50-75 per hour, or even more. The whole event lasts from mid-July to late August and this year’s event should be one to savor.

At peak viewing this year, expected on the morning of 12 August, the Moon will be below the horizon and not interfering with the view.

Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle is responsible for creating the dust trail that Earth slams through to give rise to the Perseids.

Draconids | October 07-08, 2024

The Draconids runs annually from October 6th to 10th, and this year it’ll peak on the night of the seventh and eighth, showering a dozen or so meteors per hour. Unlike other meteor showers, the Draconids are best watched in the early evenings rather than in the pre-dawn hours.

This year, the moon will set around 9 p.m. local time, leaving us to enjoy a dark sky background for the rest of the evening. Be prepared to settle into your watch though because the shooting stars in this event of few and far between.

Orionids | October 20-21, 2024

The Orionids are active from September 26 to November 22. This year, their peak is in the early hours of the night of October 21.

Frustratingly, the moon will be 80% lit and immediately next to the Orionids’ radiant, drowning out the peak of the action this year.

Taurids | November 04-05, 2024

The Southern Taurids meteor shower peaks on the night of Nov. 4-5, while the Northern Taurids shower peaks on Nov. 11-12 this year. The moon is below the horizon all night for the Southern Taurids but will be almost three-quarters lit for the Northern display, drowning that one out.

This is not an exciting shower, producing just a handful of trails every hour (around 5/hour) and the best time to hunt for them is around midnight.

Leonids | November 16-17, 2024

The Leonids produce a steady show of shooting stars from 3 November to the start of December, peaking as the 16th becomes the 17th of November. There will probably be 10-15 per hour meteors per hour.

Unfortunately, on the night of peak activity, the moon is full and above the horizon from sunset to sunrise. Expect a seriously curtailed experience of the Leonids this year.

Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle is responsible for this shower and, when the comet is closest to the sun (perihelion) we’ve been known to experience meteor storms, which next happens in 2031. However, our planet is not expected to pass through the storm-causing denser material before 2099.

Geminids | December 13-14, 2024

The Geminids shower is expected to peak in the very early hours of December 13 this year. The whole shower produces shooting stars from Nov. 19 through to Christmas Eve this year.

And, just like with the Leonids last month, the peak of this often-stunning meteor shower coincides with an almost full moon in 2024, and it will dampen the number of shooting stars we can see.

Ursids | December 21-22, 2024

The last meteor shower to peak in the year is the Ursids. The whole shower runs from Dec. 13 till the 24th, with their peak occurring in the early hours of 22 December.

The Ursids appear to radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor. It is not a dramatic shower and we should expect to see no more than 5-10 meteors per hour.

Quadrantids | January 02-03, 2025

It’s always tricky to know whether to add the Quadrantids at the beginning or the end of this list. We’ve gone with the end because the whole shower lasts from 26 December to 16 January, but the Quadrantid meteor shower peaks in the early hours of 03 January 2025.

Happily, we’ll enjoy up to 25 meteors per hour for this show because the moon will be below the horizon from about 9 p.m. local time. If the weather is kind, these are often worth looking at for their common production of fireballs. Keep in mind though that the peak for this shower is one of the shortest, lasting just five or six hours.

What Causes Meteor Showers?

As comets orbit our solar system, they leave behind a trail of ice and dust particles.

When Earth’s roughly circular orbit overlaps the comets’ highly elongated ones, our planet encounters upwards of half a billion of these comet particles.

Earth’s gravitational pull sucks them in towards itself, revving their speeds up to 160,000 miles an hour. As they encounter our atmosphere, friction heats them to 2,000°F (1,100°C).

A NASA image showing the Perseid Meteor Shower
The Perseid Meteor Shower (Source)

As the comet particles slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere, their icy nuclei vaporize in a matter of seconds, liberating the dust within. This dust gives off a brief, often vibrant burst of light as it too is vaporized, which we see as the proverbial ‘shooting star’.

This feat, as seen from the ground, produces a dense and steady stream of incoming meteors, their numbers ranging from a couple of dozen each hour to tens per second, depending on which comet’s trail we’re passing through at the time.

Since comets’ paths around the sun are relatively fixed, meteor showers are well documented and occur approximately at the same time each year.

Locating Meteor Showers

On any given night, there may be four or five visible shooting stars every hour. The easiest way to spot them is to notice their fast speeds. Stars twinkle, planets shine calmly, and meteors streak across the night sky in a whizz of light.

Learn how to photograph the night sky to capture meteor trails

While occasional shooting stars are visible almost every night to a patient observer, they arrive in bulk during a meteor shower.

The duration of these showers depends on the width of the dust trail shed by comets. The smaller the dust particle, the easier it is moved by the Sun’s wind (known as the solar wind), causing a more extensive trail. In such cases, Earth takes quite a few days to pass through the trail.

To make the most of their visibility, you have to locate the point from which the shower seems to originate (the radiant) by tracing its path backward.

Though meteors appear to fill the sky, any within the same shower come from the same direction in space and will be traveling away from their radiant. Each meteor shower is named after the constellation its radiant is located in.

For example, the Perseid meteor shower has its radiant in the constellation of Perseus.

A Sky Safari 6 image showing the Perseid meteor shower
A view of the Perseid meteor shower from Sky Safari 6

Knowing the rising time of the constellations is probably the best way to prepare for your observations since it determines when the shower will be the maximum from your location. Use paid software like SkySafari, or free versions such as Stellarium to help you out.

Tips for watching meteor showers

Searching for meteors is one of the simplest activities in all of astronomy, but it does require patience and, if you’re going to be outside for a long time, the ability to be warm and comfortable. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when undertaking your own meteor watch.

Moonlight

It is important to remember that moonlight seriously hinders meteor watching. However, most of the showers last many days, if not months, so time your observations when the moon is not so bright or when it is not high in the sky.

In the table at the top of this page, we’ve set out how much of the lunar surface will be illuminated at the peak of each shower. 100% equals a full moon, 50% is the first and last quarters, and 0% is a new moon.

Remember also that the moon is not out all night (unless it’s a full moon) so in our longer notes for the meteor showers we’ve also mentioned the best time to look for them to avoid the moon. For example, if the moon sets at midnight, then wait until the early hours to count meteors.

To further improve your hunting, consider a darker sky if that’s possible. Use the Dark Site Finder to find a location near you with a dark sky. Alternatively, this list of the darkest locations for each US state will help you find places with the least amount of light pollution near you.

Recording the showers

While you can carry a pen and a clipboard to note down the number of meteors, you will have to take your eyes off the sky, leading to inaccurate observations. 

Instead, you can speak into your audio recording device. Make sure to record at least for an hour, since that covers both high and low meteor activity. 

The International Meteor Organization (IMO) also has a list of software tools that can aid in spotting constellations and predicting meteor scatter. If you happen to observe a fireball, the IMO has an ever-expanding database where you can contribute your sightings

Essentials for Meteor Watching

You’ll get the best view of the night sky when you lie on your back (the horizon should be visible at the edge of your peripheral vision). Make sure to move away from the city lights and allow at least 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Discover what astronomy you can do in the city!

While you don’t need any special or professional equipment, consider carrying a star map to navigate the sky and spot constellations. We recommend a decent planisphere, like these.

Since meteor watching can consume many hours, consider spreading out a thick blanket or relaxing in comfortable chairs while you wait for the show. We’d also recommend a Thermos of hot coffee too, just to keep away the chills.

Oh, and don’t forget to add loads of excitement to your checklist. Happy meteor watching!


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