The next meteor shower will be the Perseid meteor shower in August. The Perseids are active between mid-July to late August and will peak around Aug. 13.
2023 will not see the same level of moonlight disturbance as we did in 2022. This year is shaping up to be a good year for some of the more prolific meteor showers such as the Geminids and Perseids.
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.
Related: Solar eclipses 2023: When, where & how to see them
Bill leads NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Top 3 showers to look out for in 2023
We asked Cooke if he had to choose, which three meteor showers would he recommend for 2023.
"The big two are relatively unaffected by moonlight in 2023, so they head my list: Geminids and Perseids." Cooke wrote in an email to Space.com.
"As for number three, that is an interesting choice. Even though the moon is full, I would have to go with the eta Aquariids, as they are projected to have a significant outburst on the night of May 4/5." Cooke continued. "The outburst will be caused by particles ejected from Comet Halley way back in 390 BC, and rates should be over two times the norm (ZHR around 120). The etas are number 6 among the annual showers in terms of exhibiting bright meteors/fireballs, so it could be a pretty decent show."
Meteor shower viewing conditions for 2023
Meteor shower viewing conditions are strongly affected by the moon phase at the time of the shower, with a bright Full Moon causing the most disturbance, washing out fainter meteors. We asked Cooke whether the moon will be troublesome for any major showers in 2023.
"Conditions are good for the big two — especially for the Geminids. Conditions are also favorable for the medium-strength Lyrids in April, the Orionids in October, and the Leonids in mid-November." Cooke wrote.
"However, the Quadrantids in January will be washed out by moonlight, as well as the Ursids at the end of December."
All in all, Cooke describes 2023 as a good year for watching meteor showers.
Meteor showers 2023 peak dates
The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of the strongest and most consistent showers of the year. It is active (and visible) between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12.
The Quadrantids will next peak between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, 2024.
For the 2024 Quadrantids, viewing conditions will be good, with a 47% illuminated waning crescent moon providing less interference than the 89% illuminated moon we experienced in 2023 at the time of the peak.
The shower's radiant is in the constellation Bootes. The easiest way to find it is to look north for the Big Dipper. Then, follow the "arc" of the Big Dipper's handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus, which anchors the bottom of Bootes.
The Lyrid meteor shower is a medium-strength shower that occurs between April 16-25 every year.
The Lyrids will next peak on the night of April 22, 2024, displaying about 18 meteors per hour in a clear sky.
Unfortunately viewing conditions for the next Lyrid meteor shower will be hindered by the almost full moon shining brightly in Virgo around the time of the Lyrid's peak. But that's not to say it's impossible to catch sight of an impressive meteor or two!
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.
According to the American Meteor Society, viewers should have a good view of the meteor shower for the three days around the shower's peak.
The source of material that creates the Lyrid meteor shower is Comet Thatcher. The Lyrids have been viewed by different cultures for the past 2,700 years, according to NASA.
May: Eta Aquarids
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is active between Apr. 15 and May 27
The Eta Aquarids will next peak on May 5-6, 2024. 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.
Moonlight will provide minimal interference to meteor hunters, as the peak of the Eta Aquarids is around the time of the new moon.
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.
Related: Eta Aquarid meteors dazzle in spectacular 'shooting star' photos
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.
Next meteor shower: The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most prolific showers of the year, producing rich, bright streaks. The Perseids are active from mid-July until late August and will peak around Aug. 13, 2023, according to skywatching site In The Sky.
Viewing conditions are good for the Perseids in 2023 as the moon will only be 10% illuminated around the time of the peak.
Viewers can start observing around 11 p.m. local time when the rates of shooting stars increase and can watch the sky until dawn.
The Perseid meteor shower radiant is in the constellation Perseus. This strong shower is produced by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, an icy body that takes 133 Earth years to orbit once around the sun.
If there's a clear sky, the Perseids will have a meteor rate of about 100 visible "shooting stars" per hour.
The Draconid meteor shower has staged some dramatic outbursts in the past but nowadays its show is far from extravagant. In recent years the Draconids have been relatively quiet, producing few meteors and no noticeable outbursts of activity.
The shower is active between Oct. 6-10, peaking around Oct. 8-9. Viewing conditions are favorable this year as the moon will only be 19% illuminated.
The Draconids are caused by Earth passing through debris — bits of ice and rock — left behind by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner as it hurtles through the solar system, passing Earth once every 6.6 years, according to NASA Science.
Like the Eta Aquarids, the Orionid meteor shower is a by-product of Halley's Comet. In 2023 the Orionids are active from Sept.26 to Nov.22 and will peak on Oct 20-21, with clear-sky rates of about 20 meteors per hour.
Related: Orionid meteor shower thrills skywatchers! See the photos
The moon will be 37% 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 Sept. 26 and lasts until Nov. 22.
The Taurid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that occurs every November and is composed of two streams, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. 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.
The Southern Taurids are active between Sept. 28 and Dec. 2 and peak on Nov 4-5. Whereas the Northern Taurids are active between Oct. 13 and Dec. 2 and peak on Nov. 11-12.
The Leonid meteor shower offers clear-sky meteor rates of about 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour. They are active between Nov. 3 and Dec. 2 and will peak on Nov. 17-18.
The Leonids are bright meteors and have a high percentage of persistent trains according to AMS.
Related: The most amazing Leonid meteor shower photos
The Leonids' radiant is located in the sickle-shaped head of the constellation Leo, the lion.
Leonid meteor hunting can be incredible, or a total bust. 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.
The Geminid meteor shower occurs between November 19 to December 24 and this year will peak on the nights of December 13 and 14. The shower can produce 130 to 140 meteors per hour on a clear sky, said Cooke.
2023 will be a great year for Geminid meteor shower viewing as it peaks around the time of the new moon which arrives at 6:32 p.m. EST (2332 GMT) on Dec. 12.
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.
Unlike the other showers on this list, the Geminids are the by-product of an asteroid. The debris that falls onto Earth's atmosphere during this meteor shower comes from the asteroid Phaethon.
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.
The Ursid meteor shower is active between Dec. 17-26 and will peak on Dec. 22-23. They're generally a fairly sparse display, producing approximately five meteors per hour, according to Royal Museums Greenwich. Visibility will be good this year as the new moon arrives on Dec. 23.
The Ursids are associated with Comet 8P/Tuttle, a periodic comet that follows a 13.5-year elliptical orbit around the sun.
Any new showers for 2023?
According to Cooke, we could experience a new shower in December, though it will favor observers in the Southern Hemisphere.
"Besides the eta Aquariid outburst mentioned above, skywatchers should be aware of a possible new meteor shower caused by debris from Comet 46P/Wirtanen." Cooke wrote.
"This shower may appear on December 12 (New Moon, so yay!) — modelers are still trying to estimate the rates. The meteors will be very slow (hence not bright) and it looks like the southern hemisphere will be favored."
How to see a meteor shower
If you're looking for a good camera for meteor showers and astrophotography, our top pick is the Nikon D850.
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."
If you want more advice on how to photograph the Taurids, check out our how to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide and if you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.
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 phase the amount of moonlight will wash out the faint meteors.
To calculate sunrise and moonrise times in your location check out this custom sunrise-sunset calculator. 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.
Related: Brilliant yellow-green fireball lights up sky above England (video, photos)
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.
Explore meteor showers in more detail and discover the difference between sporadic meteors and meteor showers with Geology.com. Learn more about meteor showers with these FAQs from NASA. Find out how we predict the intensity of meteor showers with BBC Science Focus.
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