Meteors

Meteor showers occur annually or at regular intervals as the Earth passes through the trail of dusty debris left by a comet.

Meteor showers are usually named after a star or constellation that is close to where the meteors appear in the sky. Viewing a meteor shower is most satisfying in a dark sky location, as far from urban light pollution as possible. The Observatory offers assessments of annual meteor shower viewing, which often depend on the phase of the Moon.

The information below for 2021 and 2022 is intended as an aid to meteor watchers in southern California. Meteors are best observed from dark wilderness locations, far from city lights. The glow from light-pollution in most cities and suburbs allows only a few bright meteors to be seen. The brightness of the Moon must also be taken into account, as it can have a large effect on the number of meteors that will be visible. Some meteor showers have a very brief peak, lasting only a few hours, and sometimes the peak occurs at a time when the shower is not visible from southern California. These factors have been taken into account in the listings below, which assess the viewing prospects. The estimates of numbers of meteors per hour are based on viewing from a dark sky location in southern California.

The best way to watch a meteor shower is to travel to a wilderness area or campground that has a dark sky. It’s best to choose a night when the Moon is not visible during the shower. Most meteor showers are strongest after midnight and until dawn. Dress warmly and lie back on a deck chair or lounge, so you are looking up at the sky. Don’t look at bright lights like flashlights or cell phone displays which can desensitize your eyes for ten minutes or more.

Because Griffith Observatory is surrounded by urban light glow, Griffith Park and the Observatory are not recommended as meteor shower observing locations, and are not open after normal closing time (10:00 p.m.).

Meteor Showers for 2021


Quadrantids

Active: December 28 – January 12
Peak Night: January 2/3
When can it be observed?: From 11:00 p.m. until dawn (5:30 a.m.)
Approximate peak hour: 4:30-5:30 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 90 meteors per hour. This rate may be cut in half by the presence of bright moonlight.
Fair viewing conditions

Quadrantids likely are particles from the extinct comet 2003 EH1. They hit our atmosphere with a velocity of 25 miles (41 kilometers) per second. The meteors stream from a radiant located in the northern part of Boötes the Herdsman, between the main figure of Boötes and the handle of the Big Dipper, the site of an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis the Mural Quadrant.

Notes: Bright waning gibbous moon present.


Lyrids

Active: April 16 – April 26
Peak Night: April 21/22
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m. to 4:44 a.m. (dawn).
Approximate peak hour: 3:44-4:44 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour.
Good viewing conditions

Lyrid meteors are particles shed by the comet C/1861 G (Thatcher). They hit our atmosphere at 27 miles (43 kilometers) per second. The radiant of the Lyrids is close to the brilliant star Vega in Lyra the Lyre, at the zenith (the point directly overhead) when dawn starts.

Notes: The moon sets at 3:47 a.m., allowing the maximum of the shower to be observed with no significant interference.


Eta Aquariids

Active: April 19 – May 28
Peak Night: May 4/5
When can it be observed?: 3:00 a.m. until dawn ( 4:25 a.m.)
Approximate peak hour: 3:25-4:25 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour.
Good viewing conditions

Eta Aquariids are particles shed by comet 1P/Halley. They hit our atmosphere at 41 miles (66 kilometers) per second.

Notes: The rising of the waning crescent moon at 3:13 a.m. will have little effect on observing the peak hour of meteors.


South Delta Aquariids

Active: July 21 – August 23
Peak Night: July 27/28
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m. to dawn (4:27 a.m.).
Approximate peak hour: 2:34-3:34 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 12 meteors per hour. This number will be reduced by bright moonlight.
Fair viewing conditions

South Delta Aquariid meteors may be produced by particles shed by a sun-grazing comet. They strike our atmosphere at 25 miles (41 kilometers) per second. The radiant of the shower is in the constellation Aquarius the Water Carrier, found in the southern sky after midnight.

Notes: Moonlight will significantly interfere with observations.


Perseids

Active: July 17 – August 24
Peak Night: August 11/12
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m.-4:40 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 3:40-4:40 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 83 meteors per hour.
Good viewing conditions

Perseid meteors are produced by particles shed by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. They hit our atmosphere at 37 miles (59 kilometers) per second.

Notes: The moon sets just as the meteors start to appear, resulting in ideal conditions for viewing the shower at its strongest.


Orionids

Active: October 2 – November 7
Peak Night: October 20/21
When can it be observed?: 11:30 p.m.-5:40 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 4:40-5:40 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 19 meteors per hour, but nearly full moon will prevent all but the brightest meteors from being seen.
Poor viewing conditions

Orionids are particles shed by comet 1P/Halley, and they hit our atmosphere at 41 miles (66 kilometers) per second. The meteors appear to stream from the imaginary upraised club of the constellation Orion the Hunter.

Notes: A nearly full moon will severely interfere with meteor observations.


Leonids

Active: November 6 – 30
Peak Night: November 16/17
When can it be observed?: 11:30 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 4:00-5:00 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour. Bright moonlight will greatly reduce the observed rate.
Poor viewing conditions

Leonid meteors are particles shed by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. They hit our atmosphere at a rapid 44 miles (71 kilometers) per second. Leonid meteors appear to stream from the “sickle” of the constellation Leo the Lion.

Notes: The nearly full moon sets at 4:51 a.m., only minutes before the start of dawn, so its bright light will spoil most of the opportunity to see Leonid meteors this year.


Geminids

Active: December 4 – 17
Peak Night: December 13/14
When can it be observed?: 8:00 p.m.-5:22 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 1:23-2:23 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 150 meteors per hour, but rates will be decreased by bright moonlight until 2:45 a.m.
Fair viewing conditions

Geminids are particles shed by asteroid 3200 Phaeton, likely a “rock comet.” The particles hit our atmosphere at 22 miles (35 kilometers) per second. The shower’s radiant is close to the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini the Twins.

Notes: The Geminids are usually the strongest annual meteor shower. The moon will offer some interference through the peak hour of the shower, until it sets at 2:45 a.m. Observing conditions then become ideal.

Meteor Showers for 2022


Quadrantids

Active: December 28 – January 12
Peak Night: January 3/4
When can it be observed?: From 11:00 p.m. until dawn (5:30 a.m.)
Approximate peak hour: 4:30-5:30 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 12 meteors per hour. The brief—but much stronger—peak of the shower, expected in the Eastern Hemisphere, will be over before darkness falls in North America. The moon, however, will not interfere with observations.
Good viewing conditions

Quadrantids likely are particles from the extinct comet 2003 EH1. They hit our atmosphere with a velocity of 25 miles (41 kilometers) per second. The meteors stream from a radiant located in the northern part of Boötes the Herdsman, between the main figure of Boötes and the handle of the Big Dipper, the site of an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis the Mural Quadrant.

Notes: No moon present.


Lyrids

Active: April 16 – April 26
Peak Night: April 21/22
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m. to 4:44 a.m. (dawn).
Approximate peak hour: 3:44-4:44 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour. The last quarter moon, present after it rises at 1:28 a.m., however, will reduce the observable number of meteors.
Fair viewing conditions

Lyrid meteors are particles shed by the comet C/1861 G (Thatcher). They hit our atmosphere at 27 miles (43 kilometers) per second. The radiant of the Lyrids is close to the brilliant star Vega in Lyra the Lyre, at the zenith (the point directly overhead) when dawn starts.

Notes: moderately bright moonlight will interfere after 1:28 a.m.


Eta Aquariids

Active: April 19 – May 28
Peak Night: May 4/5
When can it be observed?: 3:00 a.m. until dawn ( 4:25 a.m.)
Approximate peak hour: 3:25-4:25 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour.
Good viewing conditions

Eta Aquariids are particles shed by comet 1P/Halley. They hit our atmosphere at 41 miles (66 kilometers) per second.

Notes: The absence of moonlight in the early morning is ideal for viewing the peak of the shower.


73P-ids Meteor Storm

Active: May 30/31
Peak Night: May 30/31
When can it be observed?: 8:11 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. The shower may end before midnight.
Approximate peak hour: 9:45 p.m.-10:45p.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 10,000-100,000 meteors per hour(!)
Good viewing conditions

The shower’s radiant is on the east side of Boötes the Herdsman, about 10 degrees north of the brilliant star Arcturus, high in the northeastern sky. 73P-ids are an offshoot of the usually unremarkable Tau Herculid meteor shower. Both showers are produced by comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. The nucleus of comet 73P broke into several pieces during its returns in 1995, 2006, and 2017. In 2022 the Earth is predicted to pass through the fresh swarm of nucleus fragments, and, based on computer simulations performed by several meteor experts, a brief meteor storm of historic levels should be the likely outcome!

About 50 (mostly faint) meteors per hour may be seen as soon as darkness falls, but vast numbers of bright meteors may appear around 10:15 p.m. The shower should be visible across North America.

Notes: The moon is new and will not interfere with this exceedingly rare opportunity to observe a likely meteor storm.


South Delta Aquariids

Active: July 21 – August 23
Peak Night: July 27/28
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m. to dawn (4:27 a.m.).
Approximate peak hour: 2:34-3:34 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 12 meteors per hour.
Good viewing conditions

South Delta Aquariid meteors may be produced by particles shed by a sun-grazing comet. They strike our atmosphere at 25 miles (41 kilometers) per second. The radiant of the shower is in the constellation Aquarius the Water Carrier, found in the southern sky after midnight.

Notes: Moon sets at 8:27 p.m. and it will not be present to interfere with observing the peak activity of the meteors.


Perseids

Active: July 17 – August 24
Peak Night: August 12/13
When can it be observed?: 10:00 p.m.-4:40 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 3:40-4:40 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 83 meteors per hour. The light of the nearly full moon, however, will vastly reduce the numbers of visible meteors.
Poor viewing conditions

Perseid meteors are produced by particles shed by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. They hit our atmosphere at 37 miles (59 kilometers) per second.

Notes: Bright moonlight will interfere all night.


Orionids

Active: October 2 – November 7
Peak Night: October 20/21
When can it be observed?: 11:30 p.m.-5:40 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 4:40-5:40 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 19 meteors per hour. Waning crescent moon should not seriously interfere.
Good viewing conditions

Orionids are particles shed by comet 1P/Halley, and they hit our atmosphere at 41 miles (66 kilometers) per second. The meteors appear to stream from the imaginary upraised club of the constellation Orion the Hunter.

Notes: The presence of the waning crescent moon beginning at 3:10 a.m. should not significantly interfere with observations.


Leonids

Active: November 6 – 30
Peak Night: November 16/17, 17/18
When can it be observed?: 11:30 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 4:00-5:00 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 18 meteors per hour. Moonlight, present beginning at 12:54 a.m., will offer only sight interference.
Fair viewing conditions

Leonid meteors are particles shed by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. They hit our atmosphere at a rapid 44 miles (71 kilometers) per second. Leonid meteors appear to stream from the “sickle” of the constellation Leo the Lion.

Notes: The position of the waning crescent moon, near the meteor radiant will offer some interference.


Geminids

Active: December 4 – 17
Peak Night: December 13/14
When can it be observed?: 8:00 p.m.-5:22 a.m.
Approximate peak hour: 1:23-2:23 a.m.
Expected dark sky rate: 150 meteors per hour, but rates will be significantly decreased by bright moonlight after 9:54 p.m.
Fair viewing conditions

Geminids are particles shed by asteroid 3200 Phaeton, likely a “rock comet.” The particles hit our atmosphere at 22 miles (35 kilometers) per second. The shower’s radiant is close to the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini the Twins.

Notes: The Geminids are usually the strongest annual meteor shower. Bright moonlight, beginning at 9:54 p.m., will hide the fainter meteors, and will significantly reduce the numbers of meteors seen.

For more information about meteors:

  • American Meteor Society, LTD: The pioneering meteor astronomer, Charles P. Olivier, started the American Meteor Society, LTD., in 1911. The AMS is highly recommended for the beginning meteor observer.
  • The International Meteor Organization: Founded in 1988, the International Meteor Organization provides detailed meteor forecast, observing information and meteor shower reports. It conducts extensive worldwide visual, photographic, video, and radio observing programs. The IMO is recommended for advanced meteor observers.