Ursids: the last shower of shooting stars of the year is coming soon, what you need to know

To observe the Ursides, it will be necessary to approach the Little Dipper. (©rubinpictures / Adobe Stock illustration)

Get ready: it’s the last meteor shower of the year. Top off Watch faces will be visible on the night between Wednesday, December 21 and Thursday, December 22, 2022. This time the swarm of shooting stars will not be as large as the previous one, the Geminids, but it will still be possible to observe beautiful colors above our heads.

What are the clock faces?

This shower of shooting stars returns every year, between December 17th and 25th approximately, although the peak occurs on the night of December 21st and 22nd. “The clock faces come from the dust left by a comet, 8P/Tuttlewhich passes close to Earth approximately every 13 and a half years”, explains Gilles Dawidowicz, vice-president of the Astronomical Society of France, concluded by news.fr.

It is the encounter between this comet dust and the Earth’s upper atmosphere that forms this shower of shooting stars that we see in the sky.

Gilles DawidowiczVice-President of the Astronomical Society of France

About ten an hour

Don’t expect hundreds of yellow dots to shoot across the sky: this winter shower is more modest than others, with no more than 10 to 50 meteors, under perfect conditions, according to the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse.

“Ursides, in general, it’s about ten shooting stars per hour, it’s not a very intense rain. But they go very fast: their penetration speed in the atmosphere is estimated at 33 km per second”, states Gilles Dawidowicz, also chairman of the planetology commission.

So is the intensity of the swarm linked to the season? “Not at all”, replies Gilles Dawidowicz. “The intensity is linked to the density of dust that the comet leaves behind,” says Gilles Dawidowicz.

Compared with, during the Geminids, whose peak had also occurred in December (the night of the 13th to the 14th), we could observe 150 shooting stars per hour. During the Leonids or Orionids, up to 200 shooting stars could be seen in the sky every hour.

How to observe them?

As their name suggests, the watch sides have something to do with… the little bracket! “To observe them well, you have to look northtowards the pole star, because they seem to come from the constellation Little Bear, which is not far from the Big Bird”, locates the specialist in astronomy.

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And as usual, to get the most out of the show, wait around 10pm when it’s really dark, preferably stay away from cities, away from light pollution, and hope it doesn’t, there isn’t too many clouds.

On the color side, no green or blue tones, as during the Leonids: “The clock faces get a classic hue, yellow or whitish“, further details the expert.

It should be noted that the color of shooting stars depends on many physical and chemical parameters, such as the matter of cometary dust, their inclination, their rate of penetration into the atmosphere, etc.

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