Night skies in Spain
Axarquia, Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain


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Orionids Taurids Leonids Geminids

Also known as shooting stars, meteors may be seen on any clear and moonless night but at certain times of the year their numbers noticeably increase during meteor showers. Meteor showers occur when the Earth intersects a concentration of meteor dust moving in orbit around the Sun. If the dust is largely spread out, the resulting meteor shower can last for several days.

Favourable conditions for viewing meteors are between last quarter, through New Moon, until first quarter, as moonlight seriously interferes with the number of faint meteors that can be seen.

The best place to observe a meteor shower is somewhere dark, away from light pollution, and with the Moon out of the field of vision. The less light visible, the more brilliant the meteor shower will be. The best way to observe meteors is to lie outdoors in a recling chair or sun-lounger. Try to take in as much of the sky as possible. When you see a meteor mentally trace it backwards. After tracing back a couple, you will notice where their paths intersect at the radiant point.

January 1-6, maximum 4th - The Quadrantids.
The Quadrantids peak overnight from January 3rd to 4th. Meteor showers tend to be named after the region of sky from which they appear to emanate but the constellation from which the Quadrantids took their name, Quadrans Muralis, is no longer recognised. It was in the region of Hercules, Bootes and Draco.

The average hourly rate can range from 10 to 120, with the radiant low in the north during evening time. Moonlight will not interfere in 2011 as there is a New Moon on the 4th.

April 19-25, maximum 22nd and 23rd - The Lyrids.
With an average hourly rate not expected to be much above 10. Moonlight will interfere this year with a Full Moon on the 18th and Last Quarter on the 25th.

July 23-August 20, maximum Aug 13th - The Perseids.
The average hourly rate is expected to be about 60. With a Full Moon on August 13th, moonlight will interfere at peak time for maximum meteors.

October 6-10, maximum 8th, 19:00-21:00h - The Draconids.
The comet Giacobini-Zinner currently has an orbital period of about six and a half years. Depending on the influence of Jupiterīs gravitational pull on the comet, Earth may pass close to the descending node of the cometīs orbit in early October. For an associated meteor shower to be observed, Earth must pass close to the node within 6 million kilometres and within a relatively short time (ideally less than 100 days) before or after the comet has passed. It is not unknown for a Draconid meteor count of 200 to be taken in 2 minutes.
2011: On October 8th Earth passes close to the node 132 days before the comet but, because it also passes close to a group of old trails, there is a chance of a significant outburst. The waxing gibbous Moon in Aquarius, less than 4 days from full will interfere.
2018: In 2018 Earth will pass the descending node of the comet only 22.7 days after the comet itself has passed the same point which should produce an outstanding shower.

October 16-31, maximum 20th to 22nd - The Orionids.
An average hourly rate of between 10 and 20. With a Last Quarter Moon on the 20th, moonlight should not interfere at peak time.

October 20-November 30, maximum Nov 2nd to 7th - The Taurids.
These are slow meteors from below Pleiades with an average hourly rate between 5 and 10. With a First Quarter Moon on the 4th and a Full Moon on the 12th, moonlight will interfere at peak time.

November 15-20, maximum 18th - The Leonids.
Unpredictable average hourly rate but with a possibility of a very strong outburst. With the Moon at Last Quarter on the 18th, moonlight will interfere.

December 7-16, maximum 14th - The Geminids.
This can be one of the best meteor showers of the year but unfavourable viewing conditions prevail this year due to a Full Moon on the 10th. The Geminids are caused by an asteroid known as the object 3200 Phaethon. Together with the Quadrantids, they are the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet.

The shower is seen to be intensifying every year. Originally observed at 20 to 60 meteors per hour, recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, around 2am to 3am local time. Geminids were first observed just 150 years ago, much more recently than other showers.

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