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Published 15th June 2012 by

Each year the Earth moves through a number of meteoroid streams, producing meteor showers at roughly the same time each year. This handy chart shows you when the most active showers occur throughout the year, along with their Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR).

No two meteor showers are alike, and each is capable of springing surprises. Meteors showers appear to emanate from a small area of the sky known as the radiant, and each meteor shower is named after the radiant's location. The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is a value given to the number of meteors you would see in an hour if the radiant was directly overhead under a dark sky.

The best time to observe any meteor shower is after midnight when you're facing the Earth's direction of motion through space, with the radiant at its highest.

Use the graph above to see the ZHR of selected meteor showers and when they can be seen.

Use the graph above to see the ZHR of selected meteor showers and when they can be seen.

How to See Meteor Showers

Meteor showers are really easy to view, and you don't need any special equipment. It helps to get out of cities away from artificial lights and light pollution. Take warm clothes, hot drinks and blanket or a comfortable chair with you. Viewing meteors, just like all astronomy, is a waiting game and you need to be comfortable, especially during the winter months. Finally, you need to let your eyes adapt to the dark - avoid looking at your mobile phone or any other light as they will hinder night vision.

Meteors will always travel away from the constellation for which the shower is named. This apparent point of origin is called the radiant. For example, if you look directly at Gemini you will see geminid meteors radiate out from the constellation. Lying down and observing overhead can be the best way to observe meteor showers.

The only thing you will need is a clear and comfortable dark spot. You won't have to use binoculars or a telescope to enjoy the night's sky.

The showers will appear in the sky like shooting stars so be sure to make a wish as they pass you by.

Photographing Meteor Showers

For photographing meteor showers, a digital camera mounted on a tripod is essential to steady the images. Meteors will move swiftly across the sky so a quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of 'prime-time' can also produce great results. Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.

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