Watching a meteor shower can be a magical event. Stare up at the night sky, face the right direction, allow your eyes to adjust and just wait. When you finally see a burst of light, it will be worth the wait (and the cold!).
That is, if you’re out on the right night. Get the date wrong and you might be disappointed to see only one or two, if any.
Of course, there’s plenty more to see in the night sky, so check out our complete astronomy for beginners UK guide.
What is a meteor shower?
A meteor shower is a stream of shooting stars that appears to come from one particular area of the sky.
As comets travel around the Sun, they leave a trail of debris behind. When these fragments, most of which are smaller than a grain of sand, enter the Earth’s atmosphere, we call them meteors.
Meteors travel at incredibly high speeds and almost all of them completely disintegrate on their journey through the atmosphere. What we see is the flash of light they give off as they disintegrate.
A meteor shower is named for the area of the sky where the meteors appear to originate. For example, the Lyrids seem to come from the constellation of Lyra, and the Leonids from Leo.
When is the next meteor shower in the UK?
The next meteor shower to grace the skies of the UK is the Eta Aquariids. The shower is expected to be visible between 18 April and 27 May, with the peak on 6 May. You can expect to see around 40 shooting stars per hour.
If you miss this shower, don’t worry: there are several more you can catch this year. The dates of when you can see each shower, plus the peak and the number you can expect to see per hour, are below.
Visible: 18 April – 27 May
Peak: 6 May
Visible: 13 July – 24 August
Peak: 30 July
Visible: 2 July – 14 August
Peak: 30 July
Visible: 16 July – 23 August
Peak: 12-13 August
Visible: 7-11 October
Peak: 8-9 October
Visible: 1-6 October
Peak: 21 October
Visible: 20 October – 10 December
Peak: 12 November
Visible: 5-29 November
Peak: 17-18 November
Visible: 3-16 December
Peak: 14 December
Visible: 17-26 December
Peak: 22-23 December
Visible: 28 December to 12 January
Peak: 3-4 January
Visible: 13-29 April
Peak: 22 April