The Ursids produce a handful of meteors or shooting stars every hour, usually in the range of five to 10 per hour. A nearly moonless sky means good viewing, despite the relatively low number of meteors.
The 2019 Ursid meteor shower will peak overnight the night of Saturday, December 21 to Sunday, December 22.
In previous years, the meteors have been more spectacular.
In 1945 and 1986, for instance, 50 meteors per hour were reportedly observed, but experts admit such events are rare.
Speaking about this year’s Ursid meteor shower, Bill Cooke a NASA meteor expert told Space.com: “We’re not expecting an outburst.
Where does the Ursids meteor shower originate from?
The Ursids are associated with Comet 8P/Tuttle, which was discovered in 1790 and re-discovered by Horace Tuttle in 1858.
The comet orbits the Sun every 14 years and is not a very bright comet, due to its many punishing trips around the Sun.
The Ursids occur when Earth impacts with the trail of cosmic dust and debris left over the comet’s journey around the Solar System.
The shower itself was first recorded in England in 1900, and also spotted in Germany in the decades following.
Shooting stars are more officially called meteors.
Before they hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they are called meteoroids.
Meteors that reach the ground are called meteorites, although it is very uncommon for the debris that constitutes meteor showers to make it down without totally incinerating in Earth’s atmosphere, because these pieces are so small.