comets-book

You can now buy the recently released book, Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors. It is available through iBooks and Amazon.

 

This website only lists information on modern-day comets and meteor showers. The book, however, thoroughly investigates how specific ancient impacts and near misses changed religious beliefs around the world.

Meteor Showers


What is a Meteor Shower    

The next time you "ooohh and ahhh" during a meteor shower, consider the source. Remember that a comet passed close to Earth's orbit. Our planet is racing through a celestial battlefield, and it's only a matter of time until one of these cosmic bullets has our name on it.

 
Quadrantid Meteor Shower    

The Quadrantid meteor shower can be as intense as the Perseids and the Geminids, but the peak intensity sometimes only lasts hours. The parent body of this meteor shower may be The Great Comet of 1491 (C/1491 B1). Astrophysicists at JPL suggest that this comet may have passed closer to Earth than any other known comet. They are visible between January 1 and January 10.

 
Comet Holmes    

The Alpha Centaurid meteor shower is relatively weak at three meteors per hour. They have been observed since 1969. The parent body is not known.

 
Theta Centaurid Meteor Shower    
From January 23 to March 12, astronomers in the Southern hemisphere can see this relatively weak meteor shower. The radiant is located west of the constellation Lupus. It's peak occurs one or two days after the Alpha Centaurid meteor shower.
 
Virginid Meteor Shower    
Several meteor showers radiate from Virgo between February and May. They are collectively known as the Virginids. The Alpha Virginid meteor shower peaks each year between April 7 and 18. The first recorded observation occurred in 1895.
 
Lyrid Meteor Shower    
Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), a comet with an orbital period of 415 years, is responsible for the Lyrid Meteor Shower. The Lyrids were first recorded by Chinese astronomers on March 16, 687 BCE, making them the oldest known meteor shower. Once every sixty years, the Lyrids can produce hundreds of visible meteors an hour.
 
Pi Puppid Meteor Shower    
Comet Grigg-Skjellerup (26P/Grigg-Skjellerup) is responsible for the Pi Puppid meteor shower. The radiant of this meteor shower lies in the direction of the constellation Puppis.
 
Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower    

The meteors in the Eta Aquariids are from Halley's Comet (1P/Halley). Halley's Comet does not currently have an orbit that brings it near enough Earth orbit to produce a meteor shower, but this was not the case centuries ago. The radiant of this meteor shower is north of the constellation Aquarius, near Eta Aquarii, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. They are visible from April 19 to May 26.

 
May Camelopardalid Meteor Shower    

In 2006, calculations showed that Earth will pass through dust trails left by Comet 209P / LINEAR on May 24, 2014 (Jenniskens, 2006). The peak activity of this new meteor shower, which by most accounts will produce hundreds of meteors an hour, will occur around 7:30 UT / GMT (3:30 AM ET, 12:30 PCT). The radiant of the meteor shower will be in Camelopardalis, a constellation close to the north celestial pole.

 
Arietid Meteor Shower    
Rivaled only by the Zeta Perseids, the Arietids are the most intense daytime meteor shower. The parent body is not confirmed, but astronomers suspect asteroid 1566 Icarus or Comet Machholz (96P/Machholz). It radiates from the constellations Aries and Perseus and has been known to produce upwards of sixty meteors an hour.
 
June Bootid Meteor Shower    
In 1916, an outburst of this meteor shower "put in on the map". The previously unknown meteor shower has been relatively weak since. The parent body is Comet Pons-Winnecke (7P/Pons-Winnecke), a Jupiter-Family Comet that orbits the Sun once every 6.37 years.
 
Southern Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower    
This meteor shower is produced by Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comets. Its meteors are visible from July 21 to August 23. Their radiant lies near Delta Aquarii, one of the brightest stars in the constellation Aquarius. It produces 15-20 visible meteors an hour. This meteor shower was first observed in 1870.
 
Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower    
In 1871, a Hungarian astronomer first observed the Alpha Capricornids. Its parent body was later determined to be Comet 169P/NEAT. According to the astronomers who connected it to 169P/NEAT, this meteor shower was created 3,500 to 5,000 years ago when about half the parent body disintegrated. It is visible from July 11 to August 10.
 
Perseid Meteor Shower    
Comet Swift-Tuttle (109P/Swift-Tuttle), a comet that takes 133 years to orbit the Sun, is the parent body of the, at times, epic Perseid meteor shower. It was first recorded in August of 36 CE by Chinese astronomers, but credit for its modern identification is given to Adolphe Quetelet in 1835. Its meteors are visible from July 13 to August 26.
 
Kappa Cygnid Meteor Shower    
This weak meteor shower radiates from the star Kappa Cygni in the constellation Cygnus.
 
Draconid Meteor Shower    
The Draconids are best viewed after sunset. It produced two of the most intense meteor storms of the 20th century, in 1933 and 1946, with thousand of meteors visible per hour. The Draconid meteors were created by Comet Giacobini-Zinner (21P/Giacobini-Zinner), a Jupiter-Family Comet that take 6.62 years to orbit the Sun.
 
Southern Taurid Meteor Shower    
The Southern Taurids are the result of dust and debris left by Comet Encke (2P/Encke), a Jupiter-Family Comet that orbits the Sun quicker than any other comet. Encke and the Taurids may be part of a much larger comet that disintegrated between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. The Southern Taurids are visible from September 7 to November 19. Some astronomers have attempted to link the Taurids to the explosion of an object in mid-air over the Tunguska River in Siberia in 1908.
 
Delta Aurigid Meteor Shower    
The Delta Aurigids are a relatively weak meteor shower.
 
Orionid Meteor Shower    
Halley's Comet (1P/Halley) can lay claim to the Orionids, which are visible from October 4 to November 14. Some years, upwards of 70 Orionids per hour are visible to the unaided eye. After meteor showers were known to be produced by comets, A.S. Herschel was the first to predict a meteor shower. It was the Orionids. Halley's Comet is also responsible for the Eta Aquariids in May.
 
Leo Minorid Meteor Shower    

The Leo Minorid meteor shower only produces one or two meteors an hour. It is produced by Comet C/1739 K1. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Leo Minor.

 
Northern Taurid Meteor Shower    

The dust and debris trail associated with Comet Encke (2P/Encke) has divided into two major sections. The northern Taurids are visible from October 19 to December 10. They peak nearly a month after the Southern Taurids.

 
Leonid Meteor Shower    
One of the grand-daddies of all meteor showers. It has produced some of the most intense meteor storms through the centuries from November 5 to November 30, including one in 1833 which "produced thousands of meteors an hour" in some parts of the United States. Comet Tempel-Tuttle (55P/Tempel-Tuttle), a comet that takes 33 years to orbit the Sun, is the parent body of the Leonids. In 1366, Comet Tempel-Tuttle passed .0229 AU from Earth, one of the closest "near misses" by any comet in the past 1,000 years. It first recorded observation was in 902 CE.
 
Alpha Monocerotid Meteor Shower    
The parent body of this weak meteor storm is unknown. It is thought to be a long-period comet.
 
Phoenicid Meteor Shower    
The Phoenicid meteor shower was identified in December of 1956 after an outburst of nearly 100 meteors within an hour. It radiates from the southern constellation Phoenix. The parent body may be 289P / Blanpain (formerly D/1819 W1).
 
Monocerotid Meteor Shower    
The Monocerotid meteor shower is a relatively weak meteor shower.
 
Geminid Meteor Shower    
The parent body of the Geminid Meteor Shower is 3200 Phaethon, an extinct comet that is now classified as an asteroid. It was first observed in mid-December of 1862 radiating from the constellation Gemini. In recent years, the Geminid Meteor Shower has become more intense producing a maximum of 100 - 120 meteors an hour.
 
Comae Berenicid Meteor Shower    
This minor shower was first detected in 1959 by Richard Eugene McCrosky and A. Posen as part of the Harvard Radio Meteor Project. This meteor shower has similarities to the Leo Minorids.
 
Ursid Meteor Shower    
This minor meteor shower was first observed over the course of several years during the early part of the 20th century. In 1945, the Ursids produced upwards of 165 meteors an hour and attracted the attention of other astronomers who eventually determined the parent body, Comet Tuttle (8P/Tuttle). The Ursids can be observed from December 17 to December 23.