Ursid Meteor Shower

The Ursid meteor shower runs from Dec. 17 to 26, and peaks on the night of Dec. 22. It's a ‘Welcome to Winter Meteor Shower’ with the longest night of the year on the 21st as winter begins. This will be a good shower with the New Moon on Dec. 23. We just need good weather.

This is a northern meteor shower as they radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor the "Little Dipper" where the North Star Polaris is the end of its handle. These are slow meteors from Comet Tuttle. They generally only have 10 per hour, but meteor experts think this will be a high year for them giving 30 per hour. They've even had bursts of 100 per hour.

The early morning hours are the best to look for them, but it depends on the weather and what you're doing. You can probably also see them in the evening. Just look in the north for Polaris and Ursa Minor which hangs below the North Star. Obviously, that's what the Ursids are named after.

While you're looking for them, you'll see Cassiopeia the Queen constellation. She's a W when she's low in the sky and an M when she's up high which she is now. Since she sits in front of the Milky Way, just look at its central area up high in the north. She's basically to the upper left of Polaris.

The Milky Way is fainter this time of year as we're looking at the outer edge rather than the center that we see in the summer. That's why Cassiopeia has moved from the NE to the North. She's always opposite the North Star from the Big Dipper which is brighter and easier to find than the Little Dipper.

This month all five naked-eye planets are visible. Mars grabs the most attention reaching its most favorable Northern hemisphere in years. Mercury and Venus make a pair shortly after sunset. They’re low in the Southwest. Jupiter dominates the southern sky when it gets dark. Saturn is over 30 degrees high in the south, but it sets early. At the beginning of December it sets at 10 p.m. On Dec. 30, it sets at 8 p.m. Uranus and Neptune are also visible but will have to use binoculars to see them. So have fun!