There are a bunch of epic meteor showers coming in 2019. Pat’s got the lowdown on when they start, when they’re peakin’ and how to get the best vantage point. The night sky’s callin’ Ziggy, rug up and get out there!
There are few things in this world that are easy to get a unanimous agreement on. Is it paper, scissors, rock? Or rock, paper, scissors? Does the top stop spinning at the end of Inception? How do almonds produce milk when they don’t even have nipples?
Fortunately, I think we can all agree that a night spent gazing at the stars is never wasted. Pair it with some hot campfire coals, a TimTam Slam and a bottle of Baileys and you’re in for a good time. Well, I’ve got some news for you, it’s about to get a whole lot better. ‘Cause you’ve got three shots this year to take your stargazing to the next level. Two words – Meteor. Showers.
Not only will you be able to gaze up at the Milky Way in awe, but you’ll be treated to a bunch of fire-ballin’, tail-blazin’ meteors. These speed demons have travelled millions and millions of kilometres, all so they can crash into Earth’s atmosphere, burn up, and give you one gob-smacker of a performance.
Just a heads up for following along below, the activity period is the time that the meteor shower will be happening. During this time, if you go out stargazing you should be treated to more shooting stars than normal. However, meteor showers generally have a peak where you’ll see the most meteors per hour. So the best viewing date is a combination of the moon stage and meteor shower peak, which should give you the best bang for your buck.
Here are the three best meteor showers we’re going to be hit with this year.
Activity period: 19th April to 28th May
Best viewing date: Night of the 6th of May (around midnight)
Eta Aquariids is one of the best meteor showers for us folk down in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s produced by Halley’s Comet and has a projected peak of approximately 40-50 meteors an hour.
We’re in for a real treat with the Eta Aquariids this year. The forecast peak is on the night of the 6th of May, and a New Moon is just two days before, on the 4th of May. This means that if you can find some clear skies away from light pollution, the Milky Way should be popping and the stars shooting.
Due to the New Moon, you should be able to see meteors in the early hours of the morning for the whole week around the peak. So if the 6th doesn’t work for you, mark another date in your calendar and get ready for a hell of a show.
Southern Delta Aquariids, Piscis Austrinids and Alpha Capricornids
Activity period: Early-July to mid-August
Best viewing date: Nights of the 28th and 29th of July
Instead of one big meteor shower, this is three relatively small ones coming together. They’re normally forgotten about in the lead up to the larger Perseids shower. However, this year Perseids coincides with a Full Moon. That’s a no beuno for star gazing. The silver lining is that we get a New Moon for the confluence of these three smaller showers.
Each of the showers have a different characteristic, so you’ll be treated to some fast and bright ones, as well as a few slower ones that cruise across the sky for the five nights centred around the 30th of July. During the maximum, you can expect roughly 30 meteors an hour.
Activity period: 4th December to 17th December
Best viewing date: Night of the 14th of December
Geminids is usually one hell of a show and can have peak rates of up to 140 meteors an hour. Unfortunately, this year it coincides with a Full Moon which will wash out a lot of the fainter meteors.
However, with so many meteors, and a history of producing some pretty bloody bright ones, it could still be worth checking out. You won’t be able to see the predicted 140 an hour, but you should get a few zingers.
Get The Perfect Viewing Spot
We’re bloody spoilt in Oz for stargazing. In terms of light pollution, we have some of the clearest skies going ’round. However, if you’re in one of the big smokes then you might need to travel a little.
If you’re wondering where to go to get your meteor fix, we’ve got the spots for you. You’re going to need somewhere away from light pollution, with a good view of the sky and probably some mates to share it with. Well, we can’t find you mates, but we can give you the perfect viewing spots.
Melbournites – top spots in Vic to get an epic view of the show.
Sydney-siders – get the low-down on the best spots across NSW.
Citizens of Bris-vegas – smack the link for hot tips on your best viewing spots.
Make The Most Of Your Night
I’ll be honest, there are plenty of things worse than getting settled at camp, setting your alarm and waking up for some meteor time only to find the sky covered over with clouds. But it still sucks. So to avoid that, before you pack and go, make sure to have a peek at ClearOutside (iPhone, Android) or CloudFreeNight.
While you’re out there, you may as well learn some of the constellations hanging out above us. Thankfully, with all the new-fangled technology these days it’s pretty easy. All you have to do is point your phone at the sky and let SkyView (iPhone, Android) do the work for you. Or just ditch technology for the night and buy a sky map.
Finally, if you subscribe to the philosophy of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’, then you’re going to want to check out our guide to astrophotography.
Now all you have to do is get your car camping kit together, point yourself in the direction of some nice open spaces and drive.
Starry starry night…