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Ursid Meteors: One Last Chance to Wish Upon a Falling Star This Year

The Ursid meteor shower, the last one of 2015, hits this week and peaks on December 22-23, but may be drowned out by a nearly-full moon.
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They might be drowned out by the almost-full moon, but if you are away from city lights and can squint, you might catch an Ursid Meteor or two overnight December 22–23, with the best viewing between midnight and dawn.

“The good news: The radiant is visible in the north all night,” says Astronomy.com. “The bad news: A nearly full moon is also up for most of the night.”

Well you can’t have everything. Just a couple of weeks ago we were treated to the Geminids, a feisty shower that comes in mid-December.

RELATED: Holiday Shooting Stars: Geminid Meteors Dazzle in Festival of Lights

In contrast, the Ursids trail behind, something of an afterthought.

“This shower has been known to produce short bursts of over 100 meteors per hour,” says Earthsky.org. “But typically the shower is much sparser than that. In a dark sky, it might produce only five to 10 meteors per hour at its peak.”

However, between that, and the Winter Solstice, and the upcoming Christmas full moon, this year’s Ursids are in good company.

RELATED: Winter Solstice: Turtle Island Hunkers Down for the Longest Night

“It is unsurprising that observers have neglected the Ursids, which come from the dusty debris left in the wake of the periodic comet 8P/Tuttle,” says Space.com. “Everything about them is wintry: They occur around the winter solstice and come from near the celestial North Pole. They produce only a dozen or so meteors per hour, to the Gemenids' 120. Their source comet circles the sun in a 13.6-year orbit and was last seen in early 2008; it is due back in August 2021.”

Occasionally, Space.com notes, Earth hits an especially narrow, dense bunch of particles from 8P/Tuttle, as it did in 1945 and 1986, when “skywatchers caught dozens of bright meteor outbursts per hour.” The number got up to 30 hourly in 2006 and 2008, “but no such interaction is expected this year,” Space.com goes on to say.

But no need to give up completely! If you’re away from city lights and can find a way to block out the moon, you might have a shot at wishing upon one last shooting star in 2015.