The Alpha Centaurids meteor shower returns to WA’s night skies from 28th January – 21th February, peaking around 8th February.

The shower gets its name from the apparent origin of the meteors, in this case, the star of Alpha Centauri, which is visible to the naked eye in the south eastern sky. This means that the meteors will appear to come from a south easterly direction.

This year’s Alpha Centaurids are forecast to produce about 6 meteors per hour, and the higher the meteor shower is in the sky, the higher the number of (potentially) visible meteors. With the shower reaching its highest point after dawn, your best viewing will be in the hours up to around 4am AWST.

When and where to look:

Early morning, 8th and 9th February in the south-eastern sky.

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

Luckily, this year’s Alpha Centaurid meteor shower’s peak is close to the new moon, so there will be little interference on that front.

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! The predicted hourly rate of meteors presumes you’re viewing them in a perfectly dark sky and that the shower is directly overhead. Most of the Alpha Centaurid meteors will be quite faint, so darker surroundings makes 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.

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! Report your fireball sighting with the International Meteor Organization.

Where's Best to see a Meteor Shower?

You need dark night skies for the best views, so choose an Astrotourism Town destination. Happy meteor hunting!