- The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion.
- The meteors are actually tiny pea- and sand-sized bits of dust and debris crumbling off the Tempel-Tuttle comet.
- Onlookers could see anywhere from 50 to 200 meteors per hour.
Skywatchers, rejoice! The Leonid meteor shower, an annual mid-November treat, will be coming to a sky near you later this week.
The meteor shower is expected to peak on the night of Thursday Nov. 17-18, but could also be visible Friday night, Nov. 18-19, astronomers said.
The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they should be visible all the way across the sky.
The meteors are actually tiny pea- and sand-sized bits of dust and debris crumbling off the Tempel-Tuttle comet as it swings by the Earth. (Earth’s orbit takes it straight through the debris trail.) The dust and debris ignites when it hits our atmosphere.
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Is a meteor ‘storm’ possible?
According to the American Meteor Society, meteor experts Mikhail Maslov and Mikiya Sato have run calculations and believe that the Earth could plow through an older debris trail from the comet this year, potentially upping the number of meteors, AccuWeather reported.
Onlookers could see anywhere from 50 to 200 meteors per hour if the calculations made by Maslov and Sato are correct, AccuWeather said.
Some of the greatest meteor showers ever seen have been the Leonids. In some years, they’ve been a full-fledged meteor “storm.” The 1833 Leonid meteor storm included rates as high as 100,000 meteors per hour, EarthSky said.
The Leonids are also rather speedy, striking Earth’s atmosphere at a whopping 158,000 mph, the fastest of any meteor shower.
How to see the Leonid meteor shower
Here are some meteor shower viewing tips, courtesy of NASA:
- Find an area well away from city or street lights.
- Come prepared for chilly weather with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair.
- Orient yourself with your feet toward east, lie flat on your back and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.
In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
The Leonids can be viewed any place on Earth except Antarctica — given the sky is clear.
The moon will be 33% illuminated on the date of Leonid’s peak, so it should not interfere with viewing opportunities too much, Space.com said.