look up! The Ursid meteor shower begins tonight (Dec 17)
The annual Ursid meteor shower begins on Saturday (December 17) and lasts throughout the Christmas season through the day after Christmas Day.
The Ursid meteor shower will peak on Thursday, December 22, but the following day, when the moon is in its fully dark new moon phase, could be a good time to look for bright streaks and fireballs from this meteor shower.
Although the Ursids can produce about 22 meteors per hour at their peak, skygazers can realistically expect between five and 10 meteors per hour in dark conditions with low lunar illumination.
Related: Meteor Shower 2022: Where, When and How to See Them
The Ursids are often overlooked as meteor showers for several reasons. First, the shower falls every year during the holiday season, usually between December 13th and 24th, when people tend to have other things on their minds.
Second, this meteor shower follows the more prominent Geminid meteor shower, and even often blends in with the peak of that other shower, which occurs between December 4th and 20th. This year, the Geminids peaked on Wednesday, December 14, three days before the Ursids are set to begin.
The best way to see the maximum amount of meteors from a meteor shower is to look for them while the viewing location is pointed at the radiant and when the radiant is high above the horizon. The higher the radian, the more meteors should be visible.
The Ursids’ beam point is in the Ursa Minor constellation, and for viewers in New York City, this means that it is always above the horizon, or “circumpolar,” meaning the Ursids should be visible throughout the night.
New York is rotated toward the Ursid meteors at about 8:00 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) this time of year, when the radiant point is at its highest. That is, when meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they rain down vertically, creating trails near the emitter and, in principle, easier to spot.
Like all meteor showers, the Ursids are formed when Earth passes through a cloud of debris left behind by an asteroid or comet as it makes its annual orbit around the Sun. This explains why meteor showers occur around the same time each year.
As these pieces of debris enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, they disintegrate, with occasional larger pebble-sized pieces of debris causing a bright flash or fireball.
The Ursids arose from rubble Comet 8P/Tuttle which sheds matter as it approaches the Sun, and our star’s radiation turns solid ice into gas, a process called sublimation.
Tuttle has an orbit around the Sun that takes about 13.6 years, which is a short orbital period for a comet. 8P/Tuttle is classified as a medium-sized comet but is still about 4.5 kilometers in diameter. It is about the size of Manhattan Island and larger than 99% of all known asteroids.
Continue reading: The Christmas Asteroid Challenge begins tonight. Here’s how you can join
It will be a while before 8P/Tuttle is back to Earth. Its last close approach was in January 2008, when it got within about 23 million miles (37 million kilometers) of Earth. It won’t be nearly as close to our planet until December 28, 2048, when it will pass about 26 million miles (42 million km) away.
The year 2130 will be a special year for 8P/Tuttle as the comet will pass at a relatively close distance of about 14 million miles (22 million kilometers) on Christmas Day, more than 10 times closer to Earth than the Sun.
Editor’s note: If you take a great photo of the Ursid meteor shower and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.
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https://www.space.com/ursid-meteor-shower-begins-dec-17-2022 look up! The Ursid meteor shower begins tonight (Dec 17)