Perseid meteor shower: when is the peak and other key UK dates

·11 min read
Delta Aquariids Perseid meteor shower 2022 uk when what date peak other key UK dates august october december
Delta Aquariids Perseid meteor shower 2022 uk when what date peak other key UK dates august october december

Stargazers have already enjoyed the Delta Aquariids in July 2022, but there are other phenomenons about to grace our skies in 2022.

The Perseid meteor shower will hit its peak between August 12 and 13 in 2022, allowing stargazers to witness around 160 and 200 meteors entering Earth's atmosphere every single hour.

The shower is particularly prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, in the pre-dawn hours, and is one of the most popular showers, as though it is not the strongest, its spectators can enjoy it during summer.

During its peak, the Perseids sparkle in the summer sky, when the Earth collides with particles of debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle Comet.

The shower found its name from the Greek word, Perseidai, meaning the sons of Perseus in Greek mythology, which refers to the point in which they appear to hail.

Unfortunately, the peak falls around the time of the Full Moon in 2022, so light conditions are expected to be particularly poor.

It is recommended that those planning to watch the shower start from around midnight until 5.30am, to increase chances of spotting the meteors, as the darker the sky, the better, when watching for meteors.

But don't worry if you miss out on seeing the shower that time, as there are plenty of other opportunities to see the sky full of streaks of light.

Here, we have compiled a complete guide on when, where and how you can see all the meteor showers of 2022.

What exactly is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris stream occupying the orbit of a comet or, in simpler terms, when a number of meteors flash across the sky from roughly the same point.

Meteors are sometimes called shooting stars, although they actually have nothing to do with stars.

Perspective makes meteor showers appear to emanate from a single point in the sky known as the shower radiant. The typical meteor results from a particle - the size of a grain of sand - vaporising in Earth's atmosphere when it enters at 134,000mph.

Anything larger than a grape will produce a fireball, which is often accompanied by a persistent afterglow known as a meteor train. This is a column of ionised gas slowly fading from view as it loses energy.

Meteor, meteoroid or meteorite?

A meteor is a meteoroid – or a particle broken off an asteroid or comet orbiting the Sun – that burns up as it enters the Earth's atmosphere, creating a "shooting star".

Meteoroids that reach the Earth's surface without disintegrating are called meteorites.

Meteors are mostly pieces of comet dust and ice no larger than a grain of rice. Meteorites are principally rocks broken off asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and weigh as much as 60 tonnes.

They can be "stony", made up of minerals rich in silicon and oxygen, "iron", consisting mainly of iron and nickel, or "stony-iron", a combination of the two.

Scientists think about 1,000 tons to more than 10,000 tons of material from meteors falls on Earth each day, but it's mostly dust-like grains, according to NASA, and they pose no threat to Earth.

There are only two recorded incidents of an injury caused by a meteorite. One of these instances saw a woman bruised by a meteorite, weighing eight pounds, after it fell through her roof in 1954.

Meteor showers in 2022

Draconid meteor shower

Also known as the Giacobinids, the Draconids belong to periodic comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner and are best seen in the Northern Hemisphere (though it is still possible to see them in the Southern Hemisphere).

The shower tends to be less active than others and is known to be a sleeper. It is uncommon to see more than five meteors per hour. However, the Draconid's unpredictable nature was seen in both 1933 and 1946, when stargazers enjoyed thousands of meteors in only one hour.

In 2022, the shower will hit its peak between October 8 and 9 but unfavourable weather conditions, including cloud and fog, have often overshadowed the view for spectators in previous years.

Draconid Meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk october - Jim Holden/Jim Holden
Draconid Meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk october - Jim Holden/Jim Holden

Orionid meteor shower

Renowned for its radiant, long-lasting streaks which stick around after the meteors have passed, the Orionid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through debris left by Halley's Comet - arguably the most famous comet. While this shower is not quite as visible as others, you can maximise your chances by travelling to dark and rural locations during the peak.

Extra special and rare, the shower is only visible from earth every 75 or 76 years - in 2022, it will peak during the early hours of October 21 and 22 and be visible across both hemispheres.

The Orinid meteors appear to come from the Orion constellation direction, usually travelling at around 41 miles per second, meaning you could catch as many as 20 meteors per hour.

Orionid meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk dates watch where - PA
Orionid meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk dates watch where - PA

Leonid meteor shower

The Leonid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which rotates around the Sun every 33 years. When this happens, thousands of shooting stars are visible from our planet.

In 2022, it will peak in mid-November and viewers may be able to spot approximately 10 to 20 meteors per hour. However, this may be a little optimistic, as the meteors may fall under the horizon across the UK.

The next impressive display is not expected until 2034.

Leonid meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk dates watch where how to - JAMES S. WOOD/AP
Leonid meteor shower 2022 when date peak time uk dates watch where how to - JAMES S. WOOD/AP

Geminid meteor shower

The Geminids will grace our skies from December 17 to December 26 in 2022, peaking on December 22.

The shower occurs when the Geminids' orbit brings the 3200 Phaethon asteroid close to the Sun, and, its surface material fractures and breaks away. As the Earth passes through this debris every mid-December, they burn up in our atmosphere. This creates the meteors which are visible in our sky.

It always appears from the Gemini constellation, hence its name.

The good news for space enthusiasts across the UK is that the shower favours observers in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning you are likely to catch as many as 120 meteors an hour during its peak. They also vary in colour, which makes this one of the most beautiful showers across the calendar.

Geminid meteor stream shower december uk 2022 how to watch peak key dates - Matthias Balk/dpa
Geminid meteor stream shower december uk 2022 how to watch peak key dates - Matthias Balk/dpa

Ursid meteor shower

While the Ursids may be the last of the annual meteor showers, it is by no means least.

Yes, the shower is typically sparse in meteors; however, the Moon is in its first-quarter phase at this time of the year, and so, you won't have to worry that its light will tint your view of the meteors.

The Ursid meteors, which will peak on December 21 to 22, 2022, stem from a stream of debris from the 8P/Tuttle comet, despite looking as though they come from near the Beta Ursae Minoris - the brightest star in the bowl of the Little Dipper asterism - in the Ursa Minor constellation.

Past showers of 2022

Quadrantid meteor shower

The first major significant meteor shower of the year was the Quadrantids, which peaked between January 3 and 4, and is one of the most unusual as it is likely it originated from an asteroid.

The meteor shower was first spotted by the Italian astronomer Antonio Brucalassi in 1825, and astronomers suspect the shower originates from the comet C/1490 Y1, which was first observed 500 years ago by Japanese, Chinese and Korean astronomers.

It is known for its "bright fireball meteors", which is, according to NASA, among the best annual meteor showers.

The Quadrantids appear to radiate from the extinct constellation Quadrans Muralis, which is now part of the Boötes constellation and not far from the Big Dipper.

Because of the constellation's position in the sky, the shower is often impossible to see in the Southern Hemisphere. However, there is a chance of spotting it up to 51 degrees south latitude.

The best spots to see the display are in countries with high northern latitudes, like Norway, Sweden, Canada and Finland.

Quadrantid meteor shower January 2022 uk where to watch peak time when dates - Xue Bing/Visual China Group
Quadrantid meteor shower January 2022 uk where to watch peak time when dates - Xue Bing/Visual China Group

Lyrid meteor shower

Meteors in the Lyrid shower, which runs in its entiriety between April 16 and April 25 every year, travel through the atmosphere at approximately 107,000mph and explode about 55 miles above the Earth's atmosphere.

Nicknamed "Lyrid fireballs", these cast shadows for a split second before leaving smokey debris trails that linger for minutes behind.

The shower is visible in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and offers stargazers a chance to see up to 18 meteors per hour during its peak.

It occurs when the ionised gas in the meteors' trail burns up as it enters the Earth's atmosphere, creating the glow that can be seen streaking across the night sky.

Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth's atmosphere travelling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light.

Lyrids meteor shower today April 2022 uk where to watch peak time when dates this month
Lyrids meteor shower today April 2022 uk where to watch peak time when dates this month

Eta Aquarids meteor shower

The Eta Aquarids, also known as the Eta Aquariids, is the first of a pair of meteor showers that originate from Halley's Comet, the most renowned cosmic body of them all. This year, the Eta Aquarids shower reached its peak on May 6.

The bad news for those in the UK is that the shower is more impressive in the Southern Hemisphere, where observers can witness around 20 to 30 meteors per hour during its peak. Meanwhile, stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can only ever expect to see half as many.

The shower produces shooting stars when the Earth passes along Halley's debris stream, which, in turn, creates tiny particles that burn in the upper atmosphere.

Tau Herculids meteor shower

A newcomer this year, the Tau Herculids shower peaked through to the early morning of May 31. The shower had its origins in a comet known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or “SW3", which was discovered in 1930 and orbited the Sun every 5.4 years.

Astronomers later realised the SW3 had shattered into several pieces, littering its own orbital trail with debris, and by the time it passed in 2006, it was in nearly 70 pieces.

It has continued to fragment further since, and now experts predict that the SW3 debris will soon be striking Earth’s atmosphere at just 10 miles per second.

Unfortunately for those in the UK, North American stargazers were best placed to see the Tau Herculid shower at its peak.

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower hit its peak on July 30, allowing stargazers to see a steady stream of meteors over several days but at a low rate per hour.

One of the more moderate meteor showers, the Delta Aquariids started off the summer in the northern hemisphere. Although it was best viewed from the southern hemisphere, those living at mid-latitudes in the northern hemisphere were still be able to see the celestial event.

The meteor shower adopted its name from the Aquarius constellation, near the bright star Delta Aquarii, in the night sky from which it appeared to be travelling directly outward.

How to watch meteor showers in the UK

Unsurprisingly, meteor showers are best enjoyed once night falls, in the darkest conditions.

Meteorologists also suggest avoiding light pollution, so stargazers and photographers alike escape built-up areas, and head to the countryside, or a National Park, where you can view the showers in all their glory.

Choose a dark location away from stray lights and give yourself at least 20 minutes to appropriately adapt in total darkness.

You can easily take advantage of the beautiful stargazing locations across the UK. Among the renowned spots are the three "Dark Sky Reserves" (Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Exmoor national parks) and Europe's largest "Dark Sky Park" (Northumberland National Park and the adjoining Kielder Water and Forest Park).

  1. Galloway Forest Park: Galloway is a couple of hours from Glasgow and an hour from Carlisle. The park's most popular spot for stargazing is Loch Trool.

  2. Exmoor and around: Exmoor was granted International Dark-Sky Reserve status by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2011. Light pollution has managed to make the area more appealing to amateur astronomers.

  3. Romney Marsh: Night once provided cover for smugglers known as Owlers, but today Romney Marsh offers celestial bounty, arching over a landscape adorned with the spires of ancient churches.

  4. Kielder: Kielder Forest is officially the darkest place in England – 250 square miles of wooded beauty where Northumberland brushes against Scotland. It has its own fabulous, modern, wood-clad observatory on Black Fell's slopes above Kielder Water.

  5. North York Moors: As well as stunning night skies, the North York Moors boast historic market towns such as Helmsley and Pickering, plus appealing coastal spots, including Scarborough and Whitby.

This article is regularly updated with the latest information.