This month we are forecast for the return of the Alpha Centaurids meteor shower.

The shower gets its name from the apparent origin of the meteors, in this case, the star of Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centrauri is visible to the naked eye in the south eastern sky. This means that the meteors will appear to eminate from a south easterly direction. The 2023 Alpha Centaurids are forecast to produce about 5 meteors per hour (1 every 20 minutes). Wait until the moon has set to start your viewing.

When to look: From midnight until early morning, 7th and 8th February

Which direction to look: In the south eastern sky

Do I Need a Telescope to see a Meteor Shower?

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see a meteor shower. It’s a great time to gather with friends, roll out your favourite picnic rug, pack the drinks and snacks, and start counting how many “shooting stars” you all see!

It’s best to view a meteor shower under a dark night sky. Most meteors will be quite faint so darker surroundings will make it easier to see them. You might consider heading out to a dark sky location at one of WA’s Astrotourism Towns. If you’re an astrophotographer, it is an excellent opportunity to image meteors over some of WA’s iconic landscapes. Where are WA’s Astrotourism Towns? Fingers crossed for a spectacular show!

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors are caused by debris entering Earth’s atmosphere. The debris can be as small as a grain of sand which burns up in the atmosphere and causes a bright streak of light to appear briefly in our night sky. The debris that causes a meteor can be travelling between 11 to 73 km/second.

A meteor shower is a time when you see lots of “shooting stars”. They are the result of Earth passing through the trail of debris left by a comet or other object that has come into our Solar System and orbited around the Sun.

The Alpha Centaurids Meteor Shower is a result of Earth passing through the debris left by an unknown celestial object.

What’s the Moon phase and how will it affect viewing?

During the Alpha Centaurids this year, the Moon will be very close to full, outshining most of the fainter meteors. Some bright meteors may still appear in the sky.

Something interesting

Meteor showers are named after the constellation where the “shooting stars” appear to be coming from. In the case of the Alpha Centaurids Meteor Shower, the meteors come from the direction of the star Alpha Centauri. If you have a handy smart phone app that helps you identify objects in the night sky, search for Alpha Centauri, and you’ll be looking in the right location.

More reading

The International Meteor Organization is a great place to discover more about all things meteors. Check out their Meteor Shower Calendar. You might even like to become a member!

You might like to…

Become a Citizen Scientist and report meteor sightings! If you happen to see a very bright meteor (often referred to as a “fireball”), WA’s Fireballs in the Sky team based at Curtin University would love to know! Download the Fireballs in the Sky App and keep your eyes peeled!

Where's the Best Place to see a Meteor Shower?

You need a good dark night sky for the best view! Choose an Astrotourism Town destination. Happy meteor hunting!