Calendars do more than tell what day of the week it is. They also give us something to look forward to — a moment in time that gets us out of our heads and forces us to start looking up — figuratively and literally.
The big three — Quadrantids, Perseids, and Geminids — are evenly spread through the year. But there are more meteor showers worth watching when the skies are clear, and you can spend a late night or early morning star gazing. Here are the dates, times, and tips for how to see the best light shows 2022 has to offer.
Quadrantids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
The new year gets off to a bang every year — but we are not talking about fireworks in this instance. We’re talking about the Quadrantids meteor shower. This meteor shower is essentially the shrapnel from an object NASA dubs 2003 EH1, which they say is either an asteroid or a “rock comet.” Most meteor showers stem from comets, so the likely asteroid origin is a distinctive detail.
This meteor shower is best viewed by skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere. It also coincides with a New Moon on January 2, 2022, so the night sky may make for ideal viewing conditions.
The dates during which the Quadrantid meteor shower will be visible bridge the gap between 2021 and 2022, occurring over the course of December 28, 2021, to January 12, 2021.
The Quadrantids will peak — meaning the moment when there could be the most meteor sightings — at 4:40 p.m. Eastern on January 3, 2022. The peak number of meteors stargazers may spot ranges between 40 and 120 per hour, although NASA says the average is 80 meteors an hour at the peak.
This peak lasts only four to six hours, and it takes eyes at least half an hour to adjust to the dark, so give yourself plenty of time to acclimate to the cold and dark and wait for any passing clouds to clear.
Lyrids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
The Lyrid meteor shower occurs each year in the spring season. These meteors are essentially the shrapnel of Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which, as the name implies, was discovered in 1861 by a man named A.E. Thatcher. It is a long-period comet, orbiting the Sun once every 415 years or so.
As the name Lyrids suggests, these meteors appear to originate from the constellation Lyra. According to NASA, this meteor shower is also one of the most well-documented in the history books, with records of sightings dating back to 687 B.C.E.
In 2022 the Lyrid meteor shower will take place from April 14, 2022, to April 30, 2022.
Also called the April Lyrids, these shooting stars reach their climax on April 22 and April 23 — just before the month’s final quarter Moon. That means their headiest moments will also be moonlit — romantic, but it may also obscure the view.
The meteor shower will be at its maximum at 3 p.m. Eastern. Stargazers can expect 20 meteors an hour during these peak hours — fewer than the Perseids and Quadrantids, yes, but these meteors are known for their luminosity and speed.
Eta Aquariids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
The Eta Aquariids are not the most famous meteor shower, but they stem from maybe the most famous comet: Comet 1P/Halley. The comet passes Earth every 75 years (the next flyby is in 2061). Edmond Halley, an English astronomer who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries, lends his name to the celestial body, as he accurately predicted when it would next fly by.
The Eta Aquariids will shower down during the period between April 19 to May 28. They will be at their maximum during May 6 and May 7, peaking at 4 a.m. Eastern.
While these meteors aren’t the most gorgeous, there will be only a crescent Moon in the sky, leaving the backdrop dark and full of potential. At their peak, skygazers could see as many as 60 meteors an hour and as few as 30.
The number of meteors you see could depend on where you are in the world. While most of the action happens in the Southern Hemisphere, Northerners can see about 30 meteors per hour at the peak.
The Eta Aquariids get their name because they mostly fly from the constellation Aquarius but can come from anywhere in the sky. Eta Aquarii is one of the brightest stars in this constellation.
Delta Aquariids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
So the Delta Aquariids are not the most stunning of meteor showers, but 2022’s shower could be exceptional.
These meteors stem from Comet 9P Machholz. Amateur American astronomer Donald Machholz discovered the comet in 1986. Delta, the third brightest star in the constellation Aquarius, helped distinguish this meteor shower from the Eta Aquariids, radiating from Aquarius in the heavens.
In 2022, the Delta Aquariids will rain down to Earth from July 12 until August 23. They will be at their maximum over the night of July 28 through to July 29.
The reason why this year’s shower may be more special than usual is to do with the Moon. The New Moon occurs on the same night as the meteor shower reaches its peak, and dark skies promise optimal viewing conditions for these faint meteors.
Perseids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
The Perseids are truly the Met Gala of celestial activity. Unfortunately, the (almost) Full Moon could interfere a little with visibility. But still, it is worth marking your calendars for late July through most of August for these beautiful celestial burners.
The Perseids stem from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, but this shower’s name comes from its radiant, which is the astronomical term for the part of the night sky where these meteors appear to fall from — in this case, the radiant is near the constellation Perseus.
This constellation, located next to another star spread, Andromeda, invokes the Ancient Greek mythological hero Perseus, who slew the snake-haired, stone-eyed Medusa.
This show is one not to miss and can easily make your summer. Also, did we mention there are fireballs? Yes, the Perseids produce explosions of light and color that outlive the average meteor streak. Their brightness comes from the fact that they originate from larger particles than typical meteors.
The Perseids are active between July 17 and August 24. They will peak on August 13 at 4:40 p.m. Eastern.
Leonids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
This winter shower makes November days and nights a little brighter — but be warned: The Leonids are a “wildcard” show. Sometimes, the show is particularly stunning, but in typical years, the meteor shower may appear more ordinary (if such a thing can be called “ordinary”).
These meteors are the product of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The small Tempel-Tuttle takes 33 years to orbit the Sun. This comet’s hyphenated name is because it was discovered twice, once in 1865 by Ernst Tempel and then in 1866 by Horace Tuttle.
Though 2022 is set to be a typical year, you’ll definitely want to mark your calendars for November 2034, when there will be a cyclonic peak that produces hundreds of meteors per hour. This phenomenon occurs every 33 years.
Radiating from the constellation Leo, these meteors can appear from anywhere in the sky.
The Leonids rain down from the skies over November 6 through November 30. They will be at their maximum in the evening of November 17 through November 18 at 7 p.m. Eastern, with as many as 15 meteors per hour expected during these peak moments.
At the peak, the Moon will be approaching half-fullness, so while it will dampen some of the fainter meteors, there still could be a good show. This is another light storm known for fireballs, which have more flair than your average meteor.
Geminids 2022: Dates, times, and how to see
The Geminids are an unusual meteor shower — mostly because they are thought to be the product of an asteroid and not a comet. The asteroid in question is 3200 Phaethon, which recent research suggests is an active asteroid, meaning that it expels material like a comet. In Phaethon’s case, that may be due to sodium vaporizing from the asteroid as it gets close to the Sun over the course of its orbit.
Ultimately, the Geminids are a great note to end on before the Quadrantids start again in early 2023. Worldwide observers can also savor their 24-hour-long peak.
The Geminids will appear in the night sky between December 4 and December 17. They will be at their maximum on December 12 at 9 a.m. Eastern, but the entire day and night of December 12 should make for excellent viewing.
At the peak, there may be as many as 150 meteors in an hour.
Part of what makes this shower so great is it’s visible starting at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. on December 11, so you don’t need to put on a pot of coffee for the night.