Ursid meteor shower peaks on December 21 and 22

Skywatchers need to be looking to the skies next week when on December 22, the Ursid meteor shower will reach its peak. This is a significantly smaller meteor shower than others that have occurred in recent months and is only viewable from the northern hemisphere. However, those able to see it will be treated to between five and ten meteors streaking across the night sky per hour.

The Ursid meteor shower will peak on the evening of December 21, which is Monday and continuing to the early morning hours of December 22. Skywatchers will have to contend with a moon that is 50 percent full, introducing more light pollution. With cold and cloudy weather in place in much of the US, some will miss the Ursid shower due to overcast skies.

Those wanting to view the meteor shower in the best conditions will want to wait for the moon to set around 112:30 AM Eastern time on December 22. After the moon sets, the following hour will be the peak viewing time for the meteor shower. Ursids originates from Ursa Minor, more commonly known as the Little Dipper. However, meteors will be visible streaking across the entire night sky.

Another interesting tidbit for those unfamiliar with the Ursid meteor shower is that it's relatively new compared to the others that have been occurring annually for centuries. The first observation of the Ursids was in the early 20th century. The meteor shower occurs when the earth passes near the orbit of comet 8P/Tuttle. 2020 is expected to be a particularly good year for the Ursid shower as Earth's path will pass close to several debris trails that follow the comet.

That could mean more meteors streaking through the sky the normal. According to the American Meteor Society, those wanting to view the meteor shower don't want to look straight up at the sky; rather look for them about halfway up the night sky.