2024 meteor showers, supermoons and other things to see in the sky in the new year
A new astronomical calendar is bursting with meteor showers, two supermoons and a partial lunar eclipse.
If you're fascinated by what's happening in the skies above us, here's some important 2024 dates for your diary.
1. Quadrantid meteor shower, January 3
This meteor shower actually begins around late December but it won't reach its peak until early January of the new year.
The meteors, which will be shades of blue, white and yellow in colour have fine trains and with the best weather conditions, you could see as many as 100 every hour. After dark on January 3 will hopefully provide you with the best views.
2. Wolf Moon, January 25
The first full moon of 2024 will be on January 25. Each full moon is given its own name, which is something started by ancient cultures to allow them to track the changing weather and seasons.
The Wolf Moon is thought to takes its name from an assumption that wolves are more likely to howl at this time of year.
3. Lyrid meteor shower, April 22
The Lyrid meteor shower produces a burst of meteor activity around mid to late April with a display desribed as ‘bright fireballs’. Meteors are created by small chunks of debris that come from objects like asteroids or comets, which as the Earth passes through the trail of material it brings some of the trail with it into the atmosphere.
The Lyrids are connected to ‘Comet Thatcher’ and while the shower starts on April 14 the best view will be around a week later when you can look out for the bright and extremely fast flashes.
4. Eta Aquarids meteor shower, May 6
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower is actually active from around April 19 and will run until May 28 but its peak will be at some point between midnight and dawn on May 6, 2024.
Caused by the Comet Halley, the meteors appear low in the sky and are best seen away from light pollution.
5. Delta Aquarids meteor shower, July 30
A steady stream of meteors may be seen over a number of days come the end of July thanks to the arrival of the Delta Aquarids. While the shower stretches across many weeks of July and August, the peak is expected around July 30.
6. Perseid meteor shower, August 12
The Perseid meteor shower is active from July 17 until the end of August but is set to produce its best displays for those hoping to catch a glimpse, between August 12 and 13.
Described by the Royal Observatory Greenwich as one of the best and brightest meteor showers because it is so active around the peak, you can almost begin looking for them in the skies above you as soon as the Sun sets.
However the very best of the fireworks are usually after dark and before dawn - and with this spectacle set to peak in the middle of the school holidays it can also be an ideal event for the whole family to enjoy.
While telescopes and binoculars can help, meteor showers can be often seen without them, particularly when they are known to be as bright as the Perseids.
7. Supermoon, September 18 and October 17
A full moon can be seen in the skies above us every 29.5 days but occasionally each year a special kind of full moon - called a supermoon - occurs.
A supermoon is the result of a full moon happening when it is also near its closest point to the Earth in its orbit - making it appear bigger and brighter than at most other times.
And in 2024 there will be two supermoons expected in the autumn which are promising to be, say the experts at Greenwich's observatory, 14% bigger and 30% brighter compared with the Moon when it is furthest away.
8. Partial lunar eclipse, September 18
A partial solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth but unlike in a total solar eclipse, the Sun's light is not blocked out entirely. For a lunar eclipse, the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow. This is a partial lunar eclipse which means some parts of the Moon will still be illuminated by the Sun.
September’s event is set for the early hours of the morning – with the maximum eclipse currently expected at 3.44am BST according to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
9. Draconid meteor shower, October 8
Associated with Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zimmer, the Royal Observatory Greenwich estimates that at its peak there are only a handful of meteors an hour to spot, so this could be one more popular with avid sky gazers.
Unlike other showers that often take place over weeks – this one is also a relatively short event happening between October 6 and 10 with the peak firmly in the middle.
10. Orionid meteor shower, October 21
The 2024 Orionid meteor shower is active from October 2 until November 7, peaking overnight between October 21 and 22 sometime between midnight and dawn.
However very often you can see the Orionids for a few days either side of the peak so if you miss them or weather conditions aren't favourable around October 21 don't be afraid to have another look on another evening around that time.
You’re searching for fast meteors with very fine trains, says the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
11. Geminid meteor shower, December 14
According to skygazers the Geminids can offer one of the best, biggest and brightest displays of the year – if the weather allows for clear skies.
The meteor shower takes place for around two weeks in December but is expected to be at its peak around December 14 come the end of 2024.
During a good display there could be up to 150 brightly coloured meteors every hour when the meteors are directly overhead.