The Ursid meteor shower marks the final show of this year’s shooting star. Star watchers can expect to see up to 10 falling stars per hour as the Earth moves through the debris field in the solar system left by Comet 8P / Tuttle. Earth is moving further in the debris field as we speak, and the Ursid meteorites will peak shortly after midnight, December 21.
How can I see the bright stars?
The shooting stars will emanate from the constellation Ursa Minor – hence the name Ursid – also known as the Little Dipper.
To find the Little Dipper, look roughly toward magnetic north.
While the Big Dipper, which is easy to find, resembles a star formation that resembles a straight kite shape, including the long tail, the Little Dipper sits to the east and looks like an inverted kite.
What makes finding the Little Dipper easier is that its “tail” tip is Polaris, also known as the North Star – one of the brightest stars of the night that is heading almost north.
Be sure to find an area with clear skies – which can be important in its own right in December – and away from light pollution.
Fortunately, the moon is only in the first quarter of the night, which reduces the amount of natural light pollution in the sky.
The Royal Greenwich Observatory said: “This year, the peak of the Ursids River coincides with the first quarter moon, which means that despite the scattered nature of the shower, you may be able to see some falling stars.
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Unfortunately, the regular mid-December weather can make it difficult to spot the tall stars.
The skies are expected to be gray across most of the UK tonight, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, although patches of clear sky may offer you a glimpse.
The weather service said: “The rain became confined to the north and west of Scotland. The cold turned under clear spells for a while.”
“Rain in the southwest prevails over most of England and Wales at night. Windy in the south.”