Ursid meteor shower 2020: How can I see shooting stars tonight?

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The Ursid meteor shower marks the final shooting star display of the year. Stargazers can expect to see up to 10 shooting stars per hour as Earth moves through the debris field in the solar system left behind by the comet 8P/Tuttle. Earth is moving further into the debris field as we speak, and the peak of the Ursid meteors will arrive shortly after midnight tonight, December 21.

How can I see the shooting stars?

The shooting stars will emanate from the Ursa Minor constellation – hence the name Ursid – which is also known as the Little Dipper.

To find the Little Dipper, look almost virtually towards exact magnetic north.

While the Big Dipper, which is easier to find, resembles a star formation which looks similar to an upright kite shape, including a long tail, the Little Dipper is to the east and looks like an upside-down kite.

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What makes the Little Dipper easier to find is that the tip of the ‘tail’ is Polaris, also known as the North Star – one of the brightest stars in the night which is almost straight northwards.

Make sure to find an area with clear skies – which can be a task itself in December – and away from light pollution.

Thankfully, the Moon is only in its first-quarter tonight, reducing the amount of natural light pollution in the sky.

The Royal Greenwich Observatory said: “This year, the peak of the Ursids coincides with a first quarter Moon, meaning that despite the shower’s sparse nature you may just be able to see a few shooting stars.

“The shower also occurs around the time of the winter solstice, so you will have maximum hours of darkness for stargazing!

“Hunting for meteors, like the rest of astronomy, is a waiting game, so it’s best to bring a comfy chair to sit on and to wrap up warm as you could be outside for a while.

“They can be seen with the naked eye so there’s no need for binoculars or a telescope, though you will need to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.”

The shooting stars will begin to peak after midnight, December 21, and will continue into the early hours of December 22.

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Unfortunately, weather typical of mid-December might make the shooting stars hard to spot.

Grey skies are expected over much of the UK tonight, according to the Met Office, although patches of clear skies may offer you a glimpse.

The meteorological service said: “Showers becoming confined to north and west Scotland. Turning chilly under clear spells for a while.

“Rain in southwest spreading across much of England and Wales overnight. Windy in south.”

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