At certain times of the year the Earth crosses the paths taken by Comets on their long journeys around the Sun. Comets trail dust and ice particles in their wake and it is the entry of these into Earth's atmosphere which produces the spectacular displays we know as meteor showers.
Particles of debris falling into Earth's atmosphere heat up due to friction with the air and, when hot enough, flare incandescently. An observer on the ground sees jets of bright light trailing across the night sky. A single particle is considered a 'shooting star'. When dozens or hundreds arrive together, they are considered to be a 'meteor shower'. The bigger the particle, the longer it will be visible as it vaporises.
Because the Earth follows the same track around the Sun each year, it is possible to predict various Meteor Showers. Some can only be seen from the northern hemisphere, some only from the southern. Many can be seen from both. It depends on which
constellation they approach from and the time of year. Below are some of the best known and more spectacular showers, but there are always unexpected ones to look out for at other times due to the amount of debris in space. Showers are named after the constellation which they appear from in the night sky.
Perseids..............23 July to 22 August..........N hemisphere.
Leonids...............13 Nov to 20 Nov ..........N and S .
Geminids..............6 Dec to 19 Dec ..........N and S .