How To See A Meteor Shower: Top Tips On Watching Shooting Stars

~6 min

Observing shooting stars is one of the most fun and easy ways to learn about astronomy. In this article, we’ll give you valuable tips on how to observe a meteor shower successfully. Don't miss out on upcoming meteor showers – enable notifications in our stargazing apps, Star Walk 2 and Sky Tonight, for timely updates.


What is a meteor shower?

Most meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet. Tiny particles of cosmic dust enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, producing bright streaks of light in the sky. These streaks of light are called meteors.

Some meteor showers’ parent bodies are not comets but asteroids. For example, the Quadrantids and the Geminids are associated with asteroids 2003 EH1 and 3200 Phaethon, respectively.

By the way, many people can’t tell the difference between a meteor and a meteorite. Take our quiz about the space rocks so as not to mix up meteor and meteorite showers (spoiler: the last one could actually kill you)!

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!
Take the quiz!

When is the next meteor shower?

If you want to see shooting stars, the first thing you need to do is find out when the next meteor shower begins. To get this information, check the meteor shower calendar in the Sky Tonight app. Click the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen and go to the Meteors tab. You’ll see a meteor shower calendar for the selected month. The meteor showers’ activity periods are marked with colored stripes, and activity peaks are marked with dots. Switch between different months and choose the best night for observations.

You can also consult the meteor shower calendar from the American Meteor Society or International Meteor Organisation.

List of the best meteor showers

Here’s a list of the most prominent meteor showers with peak dates for 2024. These showers occur at about the same time every year. Click on the links to explore the details of each of them.

When is the best time to watch the meteor shower?

The four main factors that determine the visibility of a meteor shower are cloud coverage, peak time, position of the radiant, and the Moon phase. Here are the four steps you need to take to get a better meteor-watching experience.

Check the weather forecast

Cloudy or rainy skies won’t let you enjoy the meteors. So, keep the weather in mind when choosing the date for your observations.

Find out the peak time

Knowing the meteor shower’s peak time is essential because you can see the most meteors during the peak. In Sky Tonight’s meteor shower calendar, the peak dates are marked with dots. The International Meteor Organisation also provides peak dates for upcoming meteor showers.

Find out when the radiant is high in the sky

A meteor shower’s radiant is the point in the sky from which meteors appear to originate. Usually, meteor showers get their names from the constellations where their radiant point is located. For example, the radiant of the Perseid meteor shower is located in the constellation Perseus.

You don’t have to look directly at the radiant to see the meteors – they can appear anywhere across the sky. However, it’s helpful to know the position of the radiant on the sky’s dome because the higher the radiant is, the more meteors you can see.

To determine where the radiant point is in the sky, you can use Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight. First, tap the magnifier icon, enter the name of a meteor shower in the search field, and tap the corresponding search result. Then, aim your device at the sky and follow the arrow to find the radiant.

Be aware of the Moon phase

Our natural satellite can easily ruin your meteor-watching experience – the more it’s illuminated, the worse the observing conditions. For this reason, it’s better to choose a date for observation when the Moon’s illumination percentage is the lowest.

You can check the Moon phase using Star Walk 2. Tap the Menu icon in the lower-right corner of the screen and open the Sky Live section. There, you will see the current lunar phase – the number in brackets shows the illumination percentage. Swipe the picture of the Moon to the right to view the Moon phases for any date in the future.

Sky Tonight also provides a convenient lunar phase calendar. Tap the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen and switch to the Moon tab to find the lunar phases for every day of the selected month.

Our website also has an interactive lunar calendar. You can scroll through the phases, find out the moonrise and moonset times for your location, and learn more about our natural satellite.

What do you need to watch a meteor shower?

You don’t need any special equipment, like a telescope or binoculars, to enjoy “shooting stars”. However, there are a few things you should take with you.

  • Bring your mobile device with an app for viewing the night sky installed. As we’ve mentioned earlier, such an app will help you determine where the radiant is in the sky. Don’t forget to turn on the “Night mode” in the settings so your eyes can stay adjusted to the dark.
  • Put some warm clothes on. It may take some time until you see the meteors, so you might get cold while waiting.
  • Bring along a thermos with hot tea or coffee. Some sandwiches will also be a plus.
  • Grab a blanket to lie on or a reclining chair to sit in.
  • Pack a red-filtered flashlight. It will help you orient yourself in the dark while preserving your night vision.
  • Bring your friends with you. First, it’s more fun to observe a meteor shower together! Second, you can keep your eyes on different parts of the sky and let each other know when a meteor appears.

How to photograph a meteor shower?

Photographing meteor showers takes some skill and a sheer amount of luck because you never know when a meteor is going to appear. But the resulting images of “shooting stars” can be truly stunning! Here are some quick tips on how to photograph meteors.

  • Use a tripod – it’s an absolute must-have for a sharp and clear picture.
  • Use a wide-angle lens. Such a lens will capture a wider area of the sky than a regular one, thus giving you a better chance to catch a meteor.
  • Manually focus your lens. Turn the autofocus off, zoom in on a bright star or planet, and adjust the focus manually. You can also focus on infinity if your camera lens is capable of doing so.
  • Aim your camera at the shower’s radiant – this can also up your chances of capturing a “shooting star”.
  • Use an aperture of 2.8 or lower – you’ll need to let in as much light as you can.
  • Set your exposure to 15-30 seconds. You can experiment with different exposure times to get different-looking results. The longer the exposure, the longer the trails created by the movement of celestial bodies.
  • Set your ISO to 1600 or higher. Raise the ISO as high as you can before the picture becomes too grainy.

Meteor showers are an excellent starting point in your astrophotography journey. You’ll find a few more tips on the topic in the article by Jamie Carter.


Are shooting stars real stars?

A shooting star is actually a meteor – a bright streak of light caused by cosmic dust particles entering the Earth's atmosphere and burning up. So rest assured, real stars don't fall from the sky.

What are the chances of seeing a shooting star?

Depending on the month, time of day, and location, you may see a different number of shooting stars. There are also sporadic meteors, which are unpredictable. And sometimes there are meteor storms, during which you can see 1,000 meteors per hour or even more! So we can say that with the right timing and preparation, your chances are high!

What do shooting stars look like?

Shooting stars, or meteors, appear as bright streaks of light across the sky. They are typically white or blue but can vary in color. Check out our infographic to see what meteors look like and how to avoid confusing them with other objects in the sky.

Meteor Showers: All You Need to Know
Check this infographic to learn interesting facts about meteor showers. Get tips on how to observe and photograph "shooting stars".
See Infographic

What does it mean to see a shooting star?

Seeing a shooting star, in fact, simply means that you’ve witnessed a cosmic dust particle burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. For many, however, it’s considered a special and magical moment. Some cultures believe that if you make a wish on a shooting star, it will come true. Whether you believe that or not, seeing a streak of a meteor in the sky is certainly an amazing experience.

Are you ready for meteor hunting now? Test your skills with our fun quiz about shooting stars!

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!
Take the quiz!

How to watch shooting stars: bottom line

Meteor showers don't require fancy equipment to view, so they're great for any stargazer. There are several major meteor showers and many more smaller ones that occur each year. You can find all the tips for viewing meteors in visual form in our infographic. Also, make your meteor hunt easier with the Sky Tonight and Star Walk 2 apps. If you liked the article, please share it with your friends on social media. We wish you clear skies and happy observations!

Meteor Showers: All You Need to Know
Check this infographic to learn interesting facts about meteor showers. Get tips on how to observe and photograph "shooting stars".
See Infographic