We’re so lucky to live where we can be treated to so many special features in our night sky. The lack of light pollution and the big open spaces of our lake country offer the world’s best theater. While the stars and Milky Way are always spectacular the northern lights and meteor showers are major hits. The seating is never sold out so grab a sleeping bag, put on a hat and head north!
This week, start watching for Ursid meteors, which peak each year around the December solstice. In 2017, the peak probably comes on solstice night, the night of December 21 (morning of December 22). As many as 100 meteors per hour have been seen, but only in short bursts. Typically,if you catch the shower at its peak, you can expect to see about 5-10 meteors per hour in a dark sky. The moon will be in a waxing crescent phase and absent from the sky during the best hours for observing, after midnight. This shower favors northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. And, even at far northerly latitudes, it’s generally a low-key production, not nearly as exciting as last week’s Geminid meteor shower. Robert Lunsford at the American Meteor Society wrote of this year’s Ursid shower:
Rates will be low early in the week but will peak on Friday December 22 [before dawn], when hourly rates should reach 5-10 per hour. At 33 km/sec. the Ursids would produce mostly medium speed meteors.