Create a list of articles to read later. You will be able to access your list from any article in Discover.
You don't have any saved articles.
Active throughout the month, the Orionid meteor shower will peak in the early hours of 22 October. The Draconids also make a brief appearance earlier in the month.
Planetary science researcher and meteorite expert Dr Ashley King shares his tips on how to catch the best view. Plus, find out what causes meteor showers and others to look out for.
Meteors are often called shooting stars, though the bright streaks you see in the sky don't have anything to do with stars.
In fact, what you're wishing on are tiny particles of dust - leftovers from the birth of our solar system - vaporising in Earth's atmosphere.
Some of the more spectacular of these meteors can sometimes be visible from central London however you're bound to get the best experience away from the light pollution of the city.
'The darker the skies, the better your odds are of seeing the really faint ones as well,' says Ashley. 'You could go to the coast or stand on a hill in the middle of the countryside somewhere.'
You also need to be patient.
'You might not be able to see anything for the first 10 minutes while your eyes adjust,' he adds.
'Once you get used to the low light levels you'll begin to notice more and more. So don't give up too quickly.'
If you can't escape the lights of the city, or the weather is against you on the night, watch the meteor shower live online with the UK Meteor Network.
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through a stream of tiny pieces of debris (meteoroids) left behind by a comet.
Most comets are composed of dust and ice, which Ashley likens to 'a big, dirty snowball.'
'As comets orbit the Sun, the ice sublimes [changes from a solid to a gas] and the trapped dust is swept out into a tail behind them.'
Nearly all meteors are tiny dust particles, about the size of a grain of sand travelling at tens of kilometres per second through space.
'As they come out of the vacuum of space and into Earth's atmosphere, that little dust grain interacts with all the particles and ions in the atmosphere. It gets heated up by the friction and forms the impressive flash that we see,' he says.
'The Earth isn't close to the comet - it's just passing through some of the dust it left behind.'
At other times of year, you may still see meteors in the sky, but only about one every 10 minutes. These sporadic meteors, as they are known, will come from random directions.
The Orionid meteor shower takes place annually from about 1 October to 6 November as Earth passes through the trail of Halley's Comet, one of the most famous comets of all time. In 2021, the shower is due to peak in the early hours of 22 October.
Orionids are some of the fastest and brightest meteors, entering the atmosphere at just under 70 kilometres per second.
Orionids get their name because they seem to radiate from the constellation Orion, but they can appear anywhere in the sky.
Stargazers can usually expect to see around 10-20 meteors per hour, but this year a full Moon will obscure all but the brightest meteors.
Halley's Comet is a short-period comet, meaning it takes less than 200 years to go around the Sun. Its orbital period is 75-76 years and it last passed close to Earth in 1986. It will be back again in 2061.
In 1986 space agencies sent missions (Vega, Giotto, Sakigake and Suisei) to Halley (the 'Halley Armada'), so it's one of the best-studied comets.
Halley's Comet has been observed for centuries - in 1066 it was considered an omen of doom. It even appears on the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in the eleventh century.
The Leonid meteor shower takes place annually between 5-29 November as Earth crosses the trail of comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.
Entering the atmosphere at 70 kilometres per second, the Leonids are some of the fastest-moving and brightest meteors. The shower promises around 10-20 meteors per hour at its peak on the night of 17 November, but viewing conditions won't be ideal this year due to a nearly full Moon.
Leonids get their name because they seem to radiate from the constellation Leo.
Comet Tempel-Tuttle is a short-period comet, taking 33 years to go around the Sun. Its last visit was in 1998 with a return expected in 2031. The comet is quite small, only two miles across.
The comet is named for the two astronomers, Ernst Tempel and Horace Tuttle, who each independently discovered it in 1865 and 1866 respectively.
One of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, the Geminids take place annually from about 3-16 December as the Earth in its orbit passes through the trail of dust left by the 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon.
At the shower's peak on the night of 14 December, stargazers willing to brave the cold could be rewarded with a display of more than 100 multicoloured meteors per hour.
It is often one of the best showers of the year for viewers in the northern hemisphere, as it is one of the most active, but this year its peak coincides with a nearly full Moon. You could still be in for a treat, however, if you stay out to watch after the Moon sets.
Geminids get their name because meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.
Discovered by satellite in 1983, Phaethon is the only asteroid that is associated with a meteor shower. It has an orbital period of 524 days and travels even closer to the Sun than Mercury does.
According to Ashley, there is quite a lot of debate about what Phaethon really is.
'Like other comets, Phaethon has an elliptical orbit but is unusual as it doesn't go to the outer solar system. It has been officially classified as a B-type asteroid, but it has also been suggested that it could be a "rock comet" or a "dead comet".'
Phaethon is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid, meaning it could impact the Earth at some point hundreds of years in the future. For this reason it is very well studied and there are plans to send space missions there in the future, with the DESTINY+ mission currently due to launch in 2024.
Phaethon may be similar to the asteroid Ryugu, from which the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 mission recently returned samples, and Bennu, recently visited by NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission.
The Lyrid meteor shower takes place annually between 13-29 April as the Earth in orbit passes through the dust trail left behind (hundreds of years ago) by comet C/186 G1 (Thatcher).
This year, at the peak of the display during the early hours of 22 April, around 20 meteors per hour are expected to be visible.
The most spectacular are 'Lyrid fireballs', which occur when meteoroids the size of a large marble pass through the atmosphere. Their slightly larger size produces a meteor train which we see as a flash and line across the night sky.
Unfortunately, this year the Moon will be about two-thirds full at the shower's peak and the extra light will make it harder to see fainter meteors.
The Lyrid meteor shower gets its name because it appears to radiate from the area of the sky near the constellation Lyra, the Harp - but the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.
Comet Thatcher, responsible for the Lyrid meteor shower, takes 415 years to complete a full orbit of the Sun.
We have no photographs because the last time it visited the inner solar system was in 1861 - well before the widespread use of photography.
One of the best celestial events of the year to watch, the Perseid meteor shower takes place from 16 July to 23 August as Earth passes through the trail left behind by the very large comet Swift-Tuttle.
Most meteors are pieces of dust around the size of a grain of sand. Larger pieces can create spectacular fireballs and make bright trails across the sky.
The Perseid shower this year is expected to feature around 100-150 meteors per hour at its peak on 12-13 August, including bright streaks and fireballs. In the UK, you could see some activity as soon as the Sun sets, although your chances will increase once the crescent Moon sets in the early evening.
Perseids get their name because they appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, but they can appear anywhere in the sky. The best views will be from a dark location, just before midnight on 12 August until dawn the next day.
Swift-Tuttle, responsible for the Perseid meteor shower, takes 133 years to complete a full orbit of the Sun.
At 26 kilometres wide it is the largest solar system object to regularly pass so close to Earth.
Swift-Tuttle's elongated orbit means that debris enters the Earth's atmosphere at great speed.