Meteor Storm: What Is It, And When Is The Next Meteor Outburst?

What meteor showers are the most prolific? They’re called meteor storms — strong, spectacular, and, of course, rare. So rare that you might only see one once or twice in a lifetime.


What is a meteor storm?

Meteor storms are the meteor showers that provide over 1,000 meteors per hour.

To measure the intensity of a meteor shower, astronomers use the Zenith Hourly Rate or ZHR — the number of meteors an observer might see at the peak of a shower’s activity. “Might see” because to calculate ZHR, we assume conditions are ideal, and the meteor shower’s radiant is directly overhead.

A weak meteor shower produces about 2 meteors per hour, a minor one — from 2 to 10. Major meteor showers surpass 10 meteors per hour and can even have a ZHR of about 100 meteors.

But very occasionally, the number of meteors gets to thousands per hour — such events are called the meteor storms.

Please note that a meteor storm doesn’t last for days; such outbursts are visible only for a short time — usually several hours or so.

What causes a meteor storm?

Meteor storms happen when the Earth passes through those parts of a comet’s path that are very rich in remnant debris.

While traveling through space, a comet leaves behind a trail of debris that the Earth’s orbit crosses from time to time. When this happens, tiny parts of cosmic dust enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, resulting in the bright streaks of light in the sky — meteors. Depending on the density of the debris, this results in a meteor shower or meteor storm.

How often do meteor storms happen?

Meteor storms are inconsistent. For example, the Leonid meteor shower is said to become a meteor storm every 33 years. However, in fact, the Leonid meteor storms took place in 1833, 1866, 1867, 1966, 1999, 2001, and 2002, and their activity within these years varied from 1,000 to about 50,000 meteors per hour.

Is it possible to predict the next meteor storm?

Well, we’re good at predicting the timing of meteor showers in general, as they occur when the Earth passes through a debris trail left behind by a comet or asteroid. These debris trails are usually associated with specific comets or asteroids and follow predictable orbits. By studying the orbits and characteristics of these objects, scientists can make forecasts about when the Earth is likely to encounter their debris trails. That’s why we have meteor shower calendars every year.

However, meteor storms are about intensity, which is challenging to predict. The size and composition of the debris, the angle at which the Earth intersects the trail, and other unknown variables can influence the outcome. Therefore, while scientists can predict meteor showers’ activity period, they can’t say for sure if they're going to produce storms. So there is no meteor storm calendar.

When is the next meteor storm?

Astronomers still make some forecasts about the possible meteor storms:

Anyway, don't rely too much on forecasts when it comes to meteor storms. You might recall the hyped-up Tau Herculid meteor “storm” of 2022, which turned out to be not as spectacular as expected (it still put on a good show, producing 10-25 meteors per hour – yet, it wasn’t a storm). Unpredicted outbursts are also possible, so your best bet is to watch as many meteor showers as you can, so as not to miss a spectacle. If you want to stay abreast with the upcoming notable astronomy events, turn on notifications in our astronomy apps!


What is the difference between a meteor shower and a meteor storm?

A meteor shower provides from one to several hundred meteors per hour during its peak; during a meteor storm, this number increases by over 1,000. So basically, a meteor storm is the most prolific meteor shower. Learn more about meteors.

A man watching a meteor shower
Can you tell the difference between a falling star and a meteorite? And what about comets and asteroids? Check your astronomy knowledge with our quiz!
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In what year did we experience the largest meteor shower or meteor storm?

The last time a meteor storm occurred was in 2002; that year, the Leonids provided over 1,000 meteors per hour. Make sure you know how not to miss a meteor event by taking the “Catch a Shooting Star” quiz.

Meteor Showers Quiz
Think you’re a meteor mastermind? Dive into our quiz to see if you’re truly starry-eyed or just spaced out. 🌠 👀 Bonus: snag some pro tips to actually catch those elusive shooting stars!
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What is the biggest meteor shower in 2024?

The Geminids, producing 150 meteors per hour, are considered one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year. Unfortunately, in 2024, their peak coincides with the Full Moon, which will likely outshine most of the meteors. The Perseids will have better observing conditions: the First Quarter Moon will set by midnight, so if the weather is good, you’ll be able to see up to 100 meteors per hour! Read our special article to learn what other meteor showers are worth seeing in 2024.

When is the next meteor storm?

There are predictions about the Perseids’ outburst in 2028, as the Earth will pass through a debris trail left by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle back in 1479. If these predictions come true, we’ll possibly see more than 1,000 meteors per hour. The next remarkable meteor event is expected to be the Leonid meteor shower in 2094. According to the forecasts, that year, the Leonids will provide a ZHR of 800-900. But speaking of thousands of meteors, you’ll need to wait until 2098, when the Draconids might produce up to 20,000 meteors per hour.

Meteor storms: the key ideas

Meteor storms are prolific meteor showers that provide more than 1,000 meteors per hour. They can’t be forecasted precisely, so you need to keep up with the latest stargazing news not to miss them.

We wish you clear skies and happy observations!