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How to Watch the Ursids Meteor Shower in California

How to Watch the Ursids Meteor Shower in California

Learn all about the best ways to view the Ursid meteor shower in California at its peak. We have tips on timing and what to expect. Team


1 min read

December 14, 2023

The Ursids meteor shower, an often-overlooked celestial event due to its timing during the holiday season, presents a unique yearly spectacle in the night sky. This year, Californians are in for a treat as the shower reaches its peak on the morning of December 23, 2023. Here's your guide to enjoying this astronomical event in the Golden State.

Peak Viewing Times

The Ursids meteor shower will be at its most active on December 23, 2023, peaking at around 8 p.m. However, you can start watching for these meteors in the early morning hours of December 22 and 23. The shower, lasting from December 13 to 24, coincides with the December solstice on December 22, adding a special touch to the winter sky.

The Ursids are known for offering 5 to 10 meteors per hour in ideal conditions, which means a dark sky away from city lights. This year there is a waxing gibbous moon at 86% illumination during peak time. This could outshine the faint meteors, however, there are still opportunities for optimal viewing.

Catch the Ursids during the Christmas season for a nice gift from the skies.

Location Tips

For the best experience, head to areas with minimal light pollution. California’s national parks, like Joshua Tree or Yosemite, offer excellent dark skies. Beaches along the California coast can also provide a serene backdrop for meteor watching. Remember, the Ursids' radiant point is circumpolar at northerly latitudes, so a clear view of the northern sky is beneficial.

What to Expect

While the Ursids may not be as prolific as the famous Geminids, they still offer a delightful show, especially in rare instances of meteor bursts. Expect to see around 10 meteors per hour, though bursts of 100 or more meteors per hour have occasionally been observed.

Dress warmly, as December nights can be chilly. Bring a reclining chair or a blanket to lie on, and allow your eyes about 20-30 minutes to adjust to the darkness for optimal viewing. Since this is a more minor, but still impressive meteor shower, patience is key. Enjoy the quiet moments under the starry sky as you wait for the meteors to streak across.

This meteor shower is a perfect opportunity to step away from the holiday rush and connect with the cosmos. Whether you're a seasoned astronomer or a casual stargazer, the Ursids offer a moment of celestial wonder in the winter sky. As you plan your Ursids meteor shower viewing in California, remember that this event is a gentle reminder of the universe's vastness and beauty. Happy stargazing!

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