The meteor showers in 2022 will not be as impressive as in previous years as many coincide with bright moon phases. Nevertheless, we still expect some impressive light shows from our faithful Perseid and Geminid showers — albeit with lower hourly rates. The end of May will be exciting as there is the possibility of witnessing a meteor shower that has never been seen before — the tau Herculids.
If you find yourself asking "is there a meteor shower tonight?" or "when is the next meteor shower?" our meteor shower guide will help you know where and when meteor showers are occurring and how you can view them.
Bill Cooke, the lead for the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, spoke with Space.com and offered skywatching tips and details on the major meteor showers that are visible this year.
We asked Cooke if there was a particular shower he would recommend for 2022.(opens in new tab)
"My choices would be (in chronological order) the tau Herculids, the Perseids and the Geminids" said Cooke. "The tau Herculids just because there’s a chance to see a meteor shower that has never been seen before and the Perseids and Geminids because even with the moonlight, they will be better than the other showers."
"I would give the Geminids a slight edge over the Perseids, though. The thing to highlight is that the rates from these “old reliable” meteor showers will suffer greatly from the moonlight, so folks should not expect much." Cooke continued.
Meteor showers 2022 summary
|Meteor shower||Parent object||Peak||Period of activity||Zenith hourly rate (ZHR)||Moon illumination (%)|
|Lyrids||Comet Thatcher||Apr. 21-22||Apr. 15-29||18||67|
|Eta Aquarids||Halley's Comet||May 4-5||Apr. 15 to May. 27.||40||15|
|Tau Herculids||73P/Schwassman-Wachmann||May 30-31 (possible peak)||TBC||TBC||0|
|Perseids||109P/Swift-Tuttle||Aug. 11-12||Jul. 14 to Sep. 1||100||100|
|Orionids||Halley's Comet||Oct. 20-21||Sept. 26 to Nov. 22||20||21|
|Northern Taurids||2P/Encke||Nov. 11-12||Oct. 13 to Dec. 2||5||88|
|Leonids||55P/Tempel-Tuttle||Nov. 17-18||Nov. 3 to Dec. 2||15||36|
|Geminids||3200 Phaethon||Dec. 13-14||Nov. 19 to Dec. 24||140||72|
How to prepare for meteor shower observing
Meteor showers are an investment of time and preparation is key to seeing them, according to Cooke, but it's worthwhile because it's cheap — no telescope or binoculars are necessary — and the simplest form of astronomy there is.
Meteor shower observing can't be done on a whim, but it's pretty straightforward: Get away from bright lights, take time to adjust your eyes to the night sky and avoid looking at your cellphone if you get bored. The bright screen can throw a wrench in your efforts to adjust your night vision. "My suggestion to my friends who want to observe meteors is, leave your phone inside," said Cooke.
Give your eyes 30-45 minutes to adapt to the dark, he said, and take in as much of the sky as possible by lying down flat on your back. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, and the more sky you see, the better your chance is to spot one.
Each shower has a radiant, or a point in the sky where the meteors appear to originate. Knowing where the radiant is can be helpful, though the longer streaks will be visible farther away from the radiant. "You do not want to look at the radiant," Cooke said. "A good philosophy is to lie on your back and look straight up. And that way, you take in as much of the sky as you can."(opens in new tab)
Keep in mind that some sky conditions can impede the successful viewing of shooting stars. Cloud coverage could block the sky, and the moon could also tarnish meteor shower viewing even on a clear night. Depending on the moon phases the amount of moonlight will wash out the faint meteors.
Sometimes meteor showers produce exceptionally bright streaks. Observers can occasionally spot fireballs, or meteors brighter than Venus, the brightest planet in the night sky. The rate of shooting stars can be higher than usual in some instances, too, when the stream of space rocks gets a gravitational "nudge" from the planet Jupiter.
What causes meteor showers?
Meteor showers happen when Earth passes through the debris field of a comet or asteroid as these objects make their way around the sun, shedding "crumbs" along the way. That's why a given meteor shower generally appears around the same time each calendar year. And occasionally, when Jupiter gets close to a stream of debris, its immense gravity perturbs the particles, nudging them slightly closer to Earth and thereby increasing the number of meteors visible in the night sky. Occasionally, this can produce outbursts or brief periods of intense activity in which skywatchers can see more than 1,000 meteors per hour.
Most annual meteor showers don't outburst, though, and are typically classified as strong, medium or weak showers, depending on their peak rates. This guide will feature strong and medium showers occurring in 2022 when observers have a good chance to spot a meteor streak.
Lyrid meteor shower — peaks April 21-22(opens in new tab)
The Lyrid meteor shower is a medium-strength shower, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS). It will peak on the night of April 21 into the morning of April 22, displaying about 18 meteors per hour in a clear sky.
The moon will be 67% full, so the moonlight may interfere with your observations. The radiant of the Lyrids will be high in the northern hemisphere's sky during the near-dawn hours.
The radiant will be between the constellations Lyra and Hercules. The bright star Vega is part of Lyra, so you can also look for it to get a good idea of where the radiant for the Lyrids will be.
Viewers should have a good view of the meteor shower for the three days around the shower's peak, according to AMS.
Astronomers think the source for all the space bits that create the Lyrid meteor shower is Comet Thatcher. The Lyrids have been viewed by different cultures for the past 2,700 years, according to NASA (opens in new tab).
Eta Aquarid meteor shower — peaks May 4-5(opens in new tab)
On the night of May 5, observers get the chance to spot the Eta Aquarids at their peak. The maximum rate for shooting stars in a clear sky will be about 50 per hour, according to Cooke. These fast meteors travel across the sky at about 42 miles (67 kilometers) per second, according to AMS.
The moon will be in its waxing crescent phase (about 15% full) when the shower peaks.
These chunks of space debris come from a celestial icon: Halley's Comet. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is categorized as a strong shower and is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere or close to the equator. Folks in some northern latitudes, however, can also observe them.
People close to the equator will have the best chance to see the Eta Aquarids. The meteors radiate from the constellation Aquarius, which dwells in the southern sky. This means that the radiant of these shooting stars will be lower on the horizon for those viewing from the Northern Hemisphere, and it will appear higher in the sky for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.
"The Etas are not a shower that you can go out to see after sunset because the radiant won't be up," said Cooke. To see the Eta Aquarids, Cooke recommends getting up to be outside at 2:00 a.m. local time. From then on, the rates will continue to increase until dawn.
These meteors are short, swift streaks, produce long trains, according to AMS, and travel at about 41 miles (66 km) per second.
Tau Herculids meteor shower — possible peak May 30-31
New for 2022, the tau Herculids may make an appearance on the night of May 30-31. The tau Herculids come from the comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann which began to fragment in 1995.
"It all depends on how fast the particles produced in the 1995 breakup of the parent comment SW-3 are," said Cooke. "If they were ejected at relatively high speed, then a decent display of faint meteors with rates up to one per minute may be seen. If the relative speeds are low, there will be nada. The end of May will be interesting..."
Despite its name, the tau Herculids radiant is not in the constellation Hercules but rather in the western Boötes, near the bright star of Arcturus.
The moon is new on May 30, so there will be no moonlight to wash out faint meteors according to Cooke.
Perseid meteor shower — peaks August 11-12(opens in new tab)
Viewers can start observing around 11 p.m. local time when the rates of shooting start increasing and can watch the sky until dawn.
If there's a clear sky, the Perseids will have a meteor rate of about 100 visible "shooting stars" per hour. But the full moon will drastically reduce the amount we can see.
Orionid meteor shower — peaks October 20-21(opens in new tab)
Like the Eta Aquarids, the Orionid meteor shower is a by-product of Halley's Comet. In 2021 the Orionids will peak on the night of Oct. 20, with clear-sky rates of about 20 meteors per hour.
The moon will be 21% full this year and so will not interfere with Orionid viewing opportunities as much as it did in 2021.
Orionids are named for their radiant near the constellation Orion, the hunter, which is one of the easier constellations to spot with the three stars that make up its "belt."
The period of activity peaks on Oct. 20 but begins on Oct. 2 and lasts until Nov. 7. The radiant rises just before midnight and is at its highest point around 2 a.m. local time.
Northern Taurid meteor shower — peaks November 11-12(opens in new tab)
The Taurid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that occurs every November in the Northern Hemisphere. The Taurids put on a rather modest show, especially when compared with August's Perseid meteor shower or December's Geminid meteors.
At peak viewing times during the Taurid meteor shower, you may be able to see about a half-dozen shooting stars per hour, at best. Otherwise, you may not even notice the quiet star show above your head.
In the southern hemisphere the Taurids peak on Oct, 10-11 and are active for more than two months.
The Taurids are named for their radiant in the constellation of Taurus. To find Taurus, look east, toward the constellation of Orion the Hunter, shining low in the sky. Use Orion's "belt" of three blue-white stars as a pointer and follow it to the upper right where you'll see a "V" of stars lying on its side. This is the Hyades star cluster which represents the horns of Taurus, the bull.
A little further along you'll see a thumbnail-sized knot of stars that looks like a mini version of the Big Dipper. This is the Pleiades star cluster, and the Taurid meteors all appear to zip away from just beneath it.
Leonid meteor shower — peaks November 17-18(opens in new tab)
The Leonids offer clear-sky meteor rates of about 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour. According to Cooke, there may be a possible additional peak on the night of Nov. 19.
The Leonids are bright meteors and have a high percentage of persistent trains according to AMS. They will peak this year between midnight and dawn.
The Leonids' radiant is located in the sickle-shaped head of the constellation Leo, the lion.
Leonid skygazing can be incredible, or it can be dull. It all depends on where its parent body, Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, will be in its orbit and the kind of debris clumps that will be around when our planet passes through this comet's orbit.
The Leonids put on big shows in 1966, 1999 and 2001, according to AMS, when the comet was making its closest approach to the sun. It will be several years until observers get a big show from the Leonids.
"The best we can hope for now until the year 2030 is peaks of around 15 shower [meteors] per hour and perhaps an occasional weak outburst when the earth passes near a debris trail. The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains," according to AMS.
Geminid meteor shower — peaks December 13-14
The Geminid meteor shower in December can produce 130 to 140 meteors per hour on a clear sky, said Cooke. However, on the night of the peak, there will be bad interference from the 72% full moon.
Year after year, the Geminids are the strongest meteor shower in terms of rates. Cooke previously said that when the shower was observed in the 1830s, rates were about 30 meteors per hour, and now, well over 100 appear per hour.(opens in new tab)
The meteor shower's radiant is located in the constellation Gemini, which rises around sunset. The shower is best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere but can be viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, although at a reduced meteor rate.
Geminid meteors are bright and "intensely colored," according to AMS, although they aren't likely to produce long trails. These meteors are also visible in the southern hemisphere, but at reduced rates.
Explore meteor showers in more detail and discover the difference between sporadic meteors and meteor showers with Geology.com (opens in new tab). Learn more about meteor showers with NASA (opens in new tab). Find out how we predict the intensity of meteor showers with Science Focus (opens in new tab).