The Ursids meteor shower — one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year — will be peaking tonight, on December 21, 2013. The exact peak will be sometime in the early morning hours on December 22, but the best time to watch for most will be in the evening on December 21 before the Moon rises — which will occur around 8:30 pm (local time) for those in North America.
So the further north that you’re located, the better that the show should be for you — as the sky will be darker for a longer period of time before the Moon rises. The peak rate is expected to be about 10 meteors an hour this year.
The meteors will appear to be radiating out of the well-known constellation of Ursa Minor (the little bear) — which is easily located in the North/Northeastern portion of the late-night’s sky. Something else worth noting — the Ursids are best observed from the Northern Hemisphere, they’re not visible in latitudes very far South of the equator.
When observing, you’ll want to look at any portion of the sky that’s at least 90° or so away from the radiant — that’s where most of the meteors will reach their peak levels of brightness.
To keep tabs on the other celestial events of the year you can download this annual calendar of celestial events! (It’s a free PDF).
Here are some generalized tips on meteor watching:
• You want to find the darkest sky that you can, preferably far away from city lights — dark, rural locations are the ideal.
• Get as comfortable as you can— reclining chairs, warm clothes, blankets, pillows, etc, all go a long way towards improving the experience.
• A cup of warm coffee or hot chocolate tends to make the experience more enjoyable as well.
Image Credit: Meteors via Flickr CC