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.
Amaolikkervik Moon ~Inuit
Big Famine Moon ~Choctaw
Bud Moon ~Kiowa
Budding Trees Moon ~Medicine Wheel
Buffalo Calf Moon ~Arapaho, Sioux
Catching Fish Moon ~Agonquin
Chaste Moon ~Medieval English
Crow Moon ~Algonquin
Crane Moon ~Potawatomi
Crust Moon ~Algonquin
Deer Moon ~Natchez
Death Moon ~Neo-Pagan
Eagle Moon ~Cree
Fish Moon ~Colonial American
Green Moon ~Pima
Lenten Moon ~Cherokee
Little Frog Moon ~Omaha
Little Spring Moon ~Creek, Muscokee
Lizard Moon ~San Juan
Long Days Moon ~Wishram
Moon of Winds ~Celtic
Moose Hunter Moon ~Abenali
Much Lateness Moon ~Mohawk
Rain Moon ~Diegueno
Plow Moon ~Janic (full)
Sap Moon ~Algonquin
Seed Moon ~Janic (dark)
Snow Crust Moon ~Anishnaabe
Snow Sore Eyes Moon ~Dakota
Spring Moon ~Passamaquoddy
Sugar Moon ~Algonquin
Whispering Wind Moon ~Hopi
Wind Strong Moon ~Taos
Windy Moon ~Cherokee
Worm Moon ~Algonquin
A Storm moon is, according to weather folklore, the moon which occurs in March during shifting weather patterns in the northern hemisphere.
This is the month when Spring finally arrives, around the time of the Equinox, and we see new life begin to spring forth. As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, heavy rains and gray skies abound — the earth is being showered with the life-giving water it needs to have a fertile and healthy growing season. This is also a time of equal parts light and darkness, and so a time of balance.
- Colors: Green, yellow, light purple
- Gemstones: Bloodstone, aquamarine
- Trees: Dogwood, honeysuckle
- Gods: Isis, the Morrighan, Artemis, Cybele
- Herbs: High John, pennyroyal, wood betony, apple blossom
- Element: Water
Use this month for magical workings related to rebirth and regrowth. New life is blooming during this phase of the moon, as is prosperity and fertility.
More March moon lore:
As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern Native American tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.
The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.
It is also called seed moon, moon of winds, crow moon, moon of the snow-blind, and Full Worm Moon.