There’s something special about looking up at the night sky and watching a meteor streak across the sky.

While I can’t guarantee your wish will come true, I can help maximize your chances of seeing a few “shooting stars.”

Side note: Technically speaking, the streaks of light you see during a meteor shower have nothing to do with stars. These space rocks, ranging from dust grains to small asteroids, are called meteoroids. When they strike our atmosphere and burn up, producing the familiar streak of light, they are called meteors. If the meteoroid is big enough to survive entry through our atmosphere and make it to the ground, it becomes a meteorite.

As Earth moves through space, we regularly (and often predictably) encounter streams of debris that produce meteor showers. One such shower is set to ramp up starting Easter weekend, peaking on April 23. It marks the first of 10 such meteor showers skywatchers across WNY (and all of the Northern Hemisphere for that matter) can enjoy this year.

I’m a sucker for meteor showers, but I’ll be the first to admit that while nearly all of them get some sort of media coverage, very few are actually worth your time. The quality of the meteor showers differs from the source of space debris, size & quantity of that debris & speed at which they strike our atmosphere, among other things. April’s Lyrid meteor shower tends to only produce 10-15 meteors/hour, or one every few minutes under ideal conditions. That means you’re away from all city lights, there are no clouds to block the view and the moon isn’t washing out the faint meteors. In WNY, that’s a trio that’s difficult to go 3-3 with as clouds often hang out with us in this part of the world. As a general rule, I don’t make much effort to stake out a spot at night for meteor showers producing 20 or less an hour. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but if anyone has ever called you impatient, you’re probably not going to have a good time.

The next “big” meteor shower is the Perseids, a long duration display that peaks in August. The Perseids are known for being a consistent display that often involves meteors that leave long, lingering trails. The Orionids often produce lesser rates, but are a popular meteor shower known for the occasional bright fireball that lights up the sky. The Orionids peak about 10 days before Halloween in October. We end the year with another big one, the Geminids. Moonlight won’t be our best friend this year, but this display will still result in the Geminids being one of, if not the best, meteor shower of 2022.

TIPS & TRICKS

– Finding a dark location with an unobstructed view of the night sky is a must to maximize what you see. Remember, just because a meteor shower is producing 20 meteors an hour doesn’t mean your eye will be able to catch all 20.

– Lake Ontario has been a go-to spot for me. No lights & a large chunk of sky that isn’t blocked by anything.

– Give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. That means stay off the smartphone!

– Some meteor showers require you look a certain direction. Indeed, this is sometimes fruitful. Often, it is best to simply orient yourself looking straight up. Just because a meteor originates from a particular direction doesn’t mean it won’t end in another part of the sky. The more sky you have in your line of sight, the better.

– For those taking pictures, you’ll need a camera with the capability of setting a long duration exposure. Catching a meteor on your phone is like finding a needle in a haystack. Doing so on a DSLR with a 30 second exposure is a great recipe for success.

– While meteor showers are predictable, there is a thing called meteor storms. On rare instances, meteor showers overachieve and produce rates far exceeding predictions. Sadly, these instances are often not predictable.

– Chief Meteorologist Eric Snitil