Arkansas Meteor Showers

The table below lists the best annual meteor showers visible from Arkansas.  The bluer the color of the meteor shower’s title bar the better the meteor shower, from the blue Perseids to the gray background of the weak Alpha Capricornids.
Table Glossary:

  • Peak: The night one should expect the peak of meteor activity.  For example, Jan. 2 / 3 would be the night of January 2nd and morning of January 3rd.
  • Active: The days meteors from this shower are visible.
  • HR: Hourly Rate – This is the number of meteors an observer can generally expect to see at the shower’s peak on a clear, moonless night away from city lights.
  • Velocity: How fast the meteoroids hit the Earth’s atmosphere.

General Viewing Tips: Most meteor showers are best viewed from 2-4 am, due to the Earth’s motion around the Sun. While the meteors will appear to ‘radiate’ from one point in the sky, there is no one direction that is better to look in to see the most shooting stars.  They can appear anywhere in the sky.  Rest back in a lawn chair that lets you look up and face in the direction that has the darkest (looking away from city lights, moon, ect) and clearest view.

Don’t forget to check the MeteorCam for the latest meteor detections!

Quadrantids
   Peak: Jan. 2 / 3 HR: 25 (outburst over 80)
   Active: Jan. 1st – 10th Velocity: 26 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: The Quadrantids have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year but usually fall short because peak activity is relatively short lived (as little as 6 hours).  It is also one of the least observed showers due to the cold and poor weather we typically experience in early January. The average hourly rates one can expect under dark skies is 25, however burst of 80 or more have occured. These meteors usually lack persistent trains but often produce bright fireballs.
  • Fun Fact: This meteor shower still retains the name Quadrantids, for the original and now obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis.
  • Parent Object: 2003 EH (Asteroid)
Lyrids
Peak: Apr. 21 / 22 HR: 5 – 20
Active: April 16th – 25th Velocity: 30 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: The Lyrids are a medium strength shower that usually produces good rates for three nights centered on the maximum. These meteors usually lack persistent trains but can produce fireballs. They are best seen in the early morning hours, as the radiant is high in the sky at dawn.
  • Fun Fact: The Lyrids have been observed for the past 2600 years.
  • Parent Object: C/1861 G1 (Thatcher)
Eta Aquariids
   Peak:  May 5 / 6 HR: 10 – 30
   Active: April 19th – May 26th Velocity: 42 miles/sec (fast)
  • Description: While this shower has stronger rates south of the equator, from Arkansas this meteor shower will usually only produce medium rates of 10-30 per hour just before dawn.  Activity with this shower is good for a week centered the night of maximum activity. These are swift meteors that produce a high percentage of persistent trains, but few fireballs.
  • Fun Fact:  The radiant for this shower does not get above our local horizon until 4 am, only a few hours before dawn, thus early-rising observers are often rewarded with rates that climb as the radiant rises before sunrise.
  • Parent Object: 1P/Halley’s Comet
Delta Aquariids
   Peak: Jul 27 / 28 HR: 5 – 10
   Active: July 21st – August 23rd Velocity: 26 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: This is another shower best viewed south of the equator.  From Arkansas, again the radiant is located low in the southern sky and is highest in the pre-dawn hours.   These are usually faint meteors that lack both persistent trains and fireballs.
  • Parent Object: 96P/Machholz?
Alpha Capricornids
   Peak: Jul 28 / 29 HR: 2 – 5
   Active: July 11th – August 10th Velocity: 15 miles/sec (slow)
  • Description: The Alpha Capricornids are active from July 11 through mid-August with a “plateau-like” maximum centered on July 29. This shower is not very strong and rarely produces in excess of five shower members per hour. What is notable  is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period.
  • Fun Fact:  This cometary dust cloud is just starting to cross into Earth’s path, creating this weak shower. The main bulk of the dust will not shift over into Earth’s path until the 24th century. Around 2370 AD, this shower might create an annual meteor storm.
  • Parent Object: 169P/NEAT
Perseids
   Peak: Aug 11 / 12 HR: 50-75
   Active: July 13th – August 26th Velocity: 37 miles/sec (fast)
  • Description: The Perseids are one of the most popular meteor showers of the year, as it peaks on warm August nights and activity begins before midnight.  Normal rates seen from rural locations range from 50-75 meteors per hour at maximum, with rates occasionally climbing to near 100.  There are also two other minor showers occurring at the same time adding to the observed meteor count.
  • Fun Fact: This shower has been observed for about 2000 years.  Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of St. Lawrence”, since 10 August is the date of that saint’s martyrdom.
  • Parent Object: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Orionids
   Peak: Oct 21 / 22 HR: 20-25
   Active: October 4th – November 14th Velocity: 41 miles/sec (fast)
  • Description: The Orionids are a medium strength shower that sometimes reaches high strength activity. In a normal year the Orionids produce 20-25 meteors per hour, in some years however, it can exceed 50 per hour.
  • Fun Fact:  The Orionids are the most prolific meteor shower associated with Halley’s Comet.
  • Parent Object: 1P/Halley’s Comet
Southern Taurids
   Peak: Oct 8 / 9 HR: 5
   Active: September 7th – November 19th Velocity: 17 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: The Southern Taurids are a long-lasting shower that reaches a barely noticeable maximum on October 9 or 10. The shower is active for more than two months but rarely produces more than five shower members per hour, even at maximum activity. While a weak shower, the Taurids are rich in fireballs and are often responsible for increased number of fireball reports from September through November.
  • Fun Fact:  In total, this stream of matter is the largest in the inner solar system. Since the meteor stream is rather spread out in space, Earth takes several weeks to pass through it, causing the extended period of meteor activity, compared with the much smaller periods of activity in other showers.
  • Parent Object: 2P/Encke
Northern Taurids
   Peak: Peak: Nov 12 / 13 HR: 5
   Active: October 19th – December 10th Velocity: 18 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: This shower is much like the Southern Taurids, just active a bit later in the year. When the two showers are active simultaneously in late October and early November, there is sometimes a notable increase in the fireball activity.
  • Fun Fact: The Taurids are made up of weightier material, pebbles instead of dust grains, which is why they produce fireballs.
  • Parent Object: 2P/Encke
Leonids
   Peak: Nov 17 / 18 HR: 15 (Occasional Storms)
   Active: November 5th – 30th Velocity: 44 miles/sec (fast)
  • Description: The Leonids are best known for producing great meteor storms in the years of 1833, 1866, 1966, and 2001. The occur approx. every 33 years, when the parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, passes Earth and the Sun.  Yet it is not the fresh material we see from the comet, but rather debris from earlier returns that also happen to be most dense at the same time. The comet’s next return won’t be until 2031, when we could expect rates in excess of 100 meteors per hour.  Unfortunately, it appears that the earth will not encounter any meteor storm dense clouds of debris until 2099.  Until then, we can expect peaks of around 15 meteors per hour and perhaps an occasional weak outburst when the earth passes near a debris trail.
  • Fun Fact: The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains.
  • Parent Object: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Geminids
   Peak: Dec 13 / 14 HR: 80-100
   Active: December 4th – 16th Velocity: 22 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year. Because the radiant in the constellation of Gemini is well above the horizon in Arkansas by 10pm, this is the one major shower that provides good activity prior to midnight.  Prior to midnight, with the radiant lower, the meteors are typically longer as they cut across from one end of the sky (east) to the other (west).  Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen. 
  • Fun Fact: The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored; including green, yellow, and red. 
  • Parent Object: 3200 Phaethon (asteroid)
Ursids
   Peak: Dec 21 / 22 HR: 5-10
   Active: December 17th – 23rd Velocity: 20 miles/sec (medium)
  • Description: The Ursids are often neglected since it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are much less than the Geminds, just a week prior. Observers will normally see 5-10 Ursids per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity.
  • Parent Object: 8P/Tuttle