What is a meteor shower?
A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that streak through the night sky.
Most meteor showers are spawned by comets. As a comet orbits the Sun it sheds an icy, dusty debris stream along its orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to “rain” into the sky from the same region.
Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.
Visit our Almanac Page to find out which meteor showers may be visible each month and when they will be at their best, or follow this tag Meteor Shower, to see posts on all the meteor showers visible from earth.
What are shooting stars?
“Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are both names that describe meteors — streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids vaporizing high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite from the searing friction with the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.
When a meteor appears, it seems to “shoot” quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star. If you’re lucky enough to spot a meteorite (a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground), and see where it hits, it’s easy to think you just saw a star “fall.”
How can I best view a meteor shower?
Get away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate.
For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to “rain” into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.
After you’ve escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.
Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.
How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?
If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted,” and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors.
What should I pack for meteor watching?
Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.
“Solstice” is derived from two Latin words: “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it “stands still.”
(In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, also when the night time is at a minimum and the daytime is at a maximum.)
Why does the summer solstice happen?
On this day, typically June 21, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.
The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5° tilt of the earth’s axis. Because the earth is rotating like a top or gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed direction continuously — towards a point in space near the North Star. But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true.
At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summertime, and low during winter. The time of the year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation occurs on the summer solstice — the day with the greatest number of daylight hours. It typically occurs on, or within a day or two of, June 21, the first day of summer. The lowest elevation occurs about Dec 21 and is the winter solstice — the first day of winter, when the night time hours reach their maximum.
Activities for the Summer Solstice:
- Rise early on the summer solstice and greet the sun as it begins to brighten the sky.
- Create protective amulets out of rue, rowan and basil. Place these herbs in a clean white or gold cloth, and tie the cloth securely.
- Make a protective charm for your home or business. Tie a few cinnamon sticks together and position them over the door of your home or office.
- Consume foods that honor the power of the sun. Include foods that are yellow and orange. Lemons are particularly good for this purpose and can be consumed in desserts as well as in tea or lemonade.
- Leave some food out for the fairy folk that are active at midsummer. Good choices include milk, wine, honey, water and fresh bread.
Information collected from various sources
Good weather in “Flaming June” is necessary if there is to be a good harvest. Country weather lore states:
- If June with bright sun is blessed, for harvest, we will thank the Goddess.
- If June be sunny, harvest comes early.
- A cold and wet June ruins the rest of the year.
- It is said that if it rains on 27 June, then it will rain for the next seven weeks.
- A wet June makes a dry September.
- A dripping June brings all things in tune.
- If swallows fly near the ground in June, it is a sign of coming rain.
- Bats flying on a June evening are a sign of hot, dry weather the next day.
- A calm June puts the farmer in tune.
- June damp and warm, does the farmer no harm.
- Rain on St Vitus’ Day (June 15), brings rain for 30 days in a row.
According to country lore, it was also claimed that summer doesn’t actually begin until the elder is in flower.
Information collected from: various sources
Notes: I am assuming that this counting of the days begins and ends with the new moon. Notice that there are 29 days listed even though it only takes the moon 27.3 days to orbit the earth. I also found the juxtaposition of the Major Arcana of the Tarot with Old Testament happenings, and the Goddess Hecate (see day 27), an interesting mix.
1. The Juggler, or Magus— The first day of the moon is that of the creation of the moon itself. This day is consecrated to mental enterprises, and should be favorable for opportune innovations.
2. Pope Joan, or Occult Science — This day is propitious to revelations, initiations, and great discoveries of science.
3. The Celestial Mother, or Empress— The third day was that of man’s creation. So is the moon called the MOTHER in Kabbalah, when it is represented in association with the number three. This day is favorable to generation, and generally to all productions, whether of body or mind.
4. The Emperor, or Ruler— The fourth day is baleful; it was that of the birth of Cain; but it is favorable to unjust and tyrannical enterprises.
5. The Pope, or Hierophant— The fifth day is fortunate; it was that of the birth of Abel.
6. The Lover, or Liberty— The sixth is a day of pride; it was that of the birth of Lamech, who said unto his wives; “I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” This day is propitious for conspiracies and rebellions.
7. The Chariot— On the seventh day, birth of Hebron, who gave his name to the first of the seven sacred cities of Israel. A day of religion, prayers and success.
8. Justice— Murder of Abel. Day of expiation.
9. The Old Man, or Hermit— Birth of Methucelah. Day of blessing for children.
10. Ezekiel’s Wheel of Fortune— Birth of Nebuchadnezzar. Reign of the Beast. Fatal day.
11. Strength— Birth of Noah. Visions on this day are deceitful, but it is one of health and long life for children born on it.
12. The Victim, or Hanged Man— Birth of Samuel, Prophetic and kabbalistic day, favorable to the fulfilment of the great work.
13. Death— Birthday of Canaan. the accursed son of Cham. Baleful day and fatal number.
14. The Angel of Temperance— Blessing of Noah on the fourteenth day of the moon. This day is governed by the angel Cassiel of the hierarchy of Uriel.
15. Typhon, or the Devil— Birth of Ishmael. Day of reprobation and exile.
16. The Blasted Tower— Birthday of Jacob and Esau; the day also of Jacob’s predestination, to Esau’s ruin.
17. The Glittering Star— Fire from heaven burns Sodom and Gomorrah. Day of salvation for the good, and ruin for the wicked; on a Saturday dangerous. It is under the dominion of the Scorpion.
18. The Moon— Birth of Isaac. Wife’s triumph. Day of conjugal affection and good hope.
19. The Sun— Birth of Pharaoh. A beneficent or fatal day for the great of earth, according to the different merits of the great.
20. The Judgment— Birth of Jesus, the instrument of God’s judgment. Propitious for divine revelations.
21. The World— Birth of Saul, material royalty. Danger to mind and reason.
22. Influence of Saturn— Birth of Job. Day of trial and suffering.
23. Influence of Venus— Birth of Benjamin. Day of Preference and tenderness.
24. Influence of Jupiter— Birth of Japhet.
25. Influence of Mercury— Tenth plague of Egypt.
26. Influence of Mars— Deliverance of the Israelites, and passage of the Red Sea.
27. Influence of Diana, or Hecate— Splendid victory achieved by Judas Maccabeus.
28. Influence of the Sun— Samson carries off the gates of Gaza. Day of strength and deliverance.
29. The Fool of the Tarot— Day of failure and miscarriage in all things.
In April, the thunderstorms of March are beginning to subside, and the wind picks up. Seeds are being blown about on the breezes, spreading life all around from one place to the next. In fact, this month’s full moon is the aptly named Wind Moon, although in some traditions this lunar cycle is often known as the Seed Moon.
Trees have buds on them, spring daffodils and tulips abound, and the birds are nesting once more. Spring is well underway now that the soggy chill of March is past, and while it’s still soggy in a lot of places, there’s hope yet, because as the saying goes, those April showers will bring us flowers in May.
Now that April’s here, It’s a time to welcome new beginnings, and do magic related to conceiving new ideas and projects. Much like March, this is a time of conception and fertility and new growth. What do you want to see taking root and growing in your life?
- Colors: Bright primary colors — red, yellow, blue — and their combinations
- Gemstones: Quartz, selenite, angelite
- Trees: Hazel, forsythia, lilac, willow
- Gods: Ishtar, Tawaret, Venus, Herne, Cernunnos
- Herbs: Dandelion, milkweed, dogwood, fennel, dill
- Element: Air
It’s the time to stop planning, and start doing. Take all those ideas you’ve had brewing for the past couple of months, and make them come to fruition. This is an excellent time to work on magic related to new beginnings. Looking to bring new love into your life, or conceive or adopt a child? This is the time to do those workings.
People have been planting by the moon’s phases for centuries, in the belief that something in the lunar light or gravity affects the way plants grow.
The Simplest Rule For Moon Planting is as follows:
The moon planting rule says to plant crops that produce above the ground during the increasing light of the moon (from new moon to full moon) and to plant crops that produce below the ground during the decreasing light of the moon (from full moon to new moon).
A More Detailed Set of Moon Planting Rules:
- New Moon To Full Moon: Sow, Transplant, bud and graft.
- Full Moon To New Moon: Plow, Cultivate, weed and reap.
- New Moon To First Quarter: Good for Planting above-ground crops with outside seeds,
- flowering annuals.
- First Quarter To Full Moon: Good for planting above ground crops with inside seeds.
- Full Moon To Last Quarter: Good for planting root crops, bulbs, biennials, and perennials.
- Last Quarter To New Moon: Do Not Plant
The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982.
The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
The last moon phase of the year is the Big Winter Moon in December, also called Long Nights Moon, or the Cold Moon.
- Colors: White, red, and black
- Gemstones: Obsidian, ruby, serpentine
- Trees: Pine, holly
- Gods: Minerva, Osiris, Athena, Persephone and Hades
- Herbs: Ivy, mistletoe, holly and berries, cinnamon
- Element: Fire
As the days get shorter and Yule approaches with the longest night of the year, we force ourselves to get through the darkness because eventually we will see the sunlight and warmth again. Think about the things in your life that you’ve had to endure. Sometimes, a part of us must die in order to be reborn. Now is the perfect time for spiritual alchemy — time to evaluate your life, and know that you’ll survive the dark times.
If you’ve already put the darkness behind you, take your good fortune and share it with others. When it’s cold outside, open your heart and home to friends and family. Reach out to people who might be suffering from the chill of winter, either spiritually or physically.
The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.