Today, June 3oth, is National Meteor Watch Day, a fact that must have astronomers bristling. Meteor showers – or, to employ their much more romantic name, falling stars – are not a scheduled phenomenon, so having one scheduled day at which to peer at them will certainly prove to be an exercise in futility. And they are not visible from this nation alone, so making it a national holiday ignores that space exists above the entire planet, and not just above America.
Nonetheless, today is National Meteor Watch Day. And, since we all want to watch meteors, we here at Crave will provide a guide for you, dear readers, as to when and where you may observe the biggest and most spectacular shooting stars in 2016.
Check Out: Space is Straight Up Gangsta
First, to offer you some basic book learnin’ on the matter: Meteor showers are usually made up of dust, usually trailed by comets, hitting and passing through the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Their burning is what causes the visible “streaking” effect. Meteors are passing through Earth’s atmosphere constantly. It’s happening right now, in fact. There will not be a night on this planet wherein you cannot see at least one shooting star from somewhere.
When we think of meteors, most people tend to summon up images of cheesy movies like Deep Impact or cheesy-but-also-really-awful movies like Armageddon (remember 1998? When both those movies were released within months of each other? Weird). Most meteors, however, are not gigantic Fiat-sized balls of fire. They’re usually tiny rocks – pebbles really – that strike the atmosphere at terrifying speeds; meteors can travel up to 45 miles per second. Technically, the pebbles are not burning up in the atmosphere, but their friction with Earth’s air is causing the air particles to ignite. The pebbles then land safely on Earth, immensely slowed by that friction.
August 11th, 12th, and 13th, 2016: Keep an eye out for the Perseid meteor shower, coming from the northeastern portion of the sky. According to astronomers, this will be the second largest shower of the year, revealing about 50 meteors per hour. You’ll have to wake up early, though, as the most activity will be right before dawn.
October 21st and 22nd, 2016: These pre-Halloween evenings will be the perfect mood under which to watch the Orionid meteor shower, which, also right before dawn, will warrant up to 15 meteors per hour. Look south to see this one. The rocks you see are, it turns out, being trailed by Halley’s Comet, which isn’t scheduled to revisit Earth until July of 2061.
November 5th, 17th, and 25th, 2016: November will be a busy month for shooting stars. The 5th is the night of the Taurid shower (don’t they have the coolest names?), which will reveal at least 10, but as many as 20, meteors per hour. This will also be seen in the southern part of the sky, and will also be visible right before dawn. The 17th and 18th are the nights of the Leonid shower, equally strong, and can be seen in the late evening in the southern sky. The 25th and 26th are the nights of the Andromedid shower, also a late-nighter (like 10 p.m. until midnight), and also in the south, but only giving up about three meteors per hour.
December 13th and 14th, 2016: This will be the biggest night of the year. This is the night of the Geminid shower, which is an all-night party of shooting stars that will display as many as 75 meteors per hour. Look northeast.
You have time to buy a telescope for most of these. Most showers, according to those who know, are best seen in the middle of the night, and, of course, in areas far away from city lights. If you have access to a broad, faraway field or desert, and a stargazer’s gumption, then go for it. Take in the majesty.
Top Image: Paramount Pictures
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.