The Leonid meteor shower will peak this weekend, and it’s expected that lucky viewers might get to see anywhere between 10-15 meteors streaking across the night sky per hour. However, the full moon on Sunday night might make viewing the Leonid meteor show difficult then. When will be the best times for you to see the cool display of shooting stars?
The Leonid meteor shower is an annual event, occurring every November. This is the time of year when Earth passes through a rocky stream of debris left behind by the comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. As our planet passes through the orbital path of Tempel-Tuttle, at night it looks as if shooting stars are streaking across the sky.
When is the Leonid meteor shower expected to peak?
The best time to turn your eyes to the skies to see the Leonid meteor shower is, according to scientists, from Saturday evening to sometime early Monday morning.
Most years, like this one, people gazing skyward to view the Leonid meteor shower will see 10-15 per hour, if they’re lucky and the weather isn’t cloudy, and it isn’t snowing or raining.
However, certain years in the past, the Leonid meteor shower has been more like a meteor storm. For instance, in 1833 (according to EarthSky.org), the Leonids reportedly filled the night skies with as many as 100,000 meteors each hour.
That surely would have been an incredible spectacle to behold, but in 1966, during the annual Leonid meteor storm (which it again was, that year, rather than a shower), people got the chance to see 10-15 meteors every second. The last Leonid meteor storm was in 2002; unfortunately, the next one won’t be until 2034. The meteor storms occur once every 33 years or so.
Also, the full moon on Sunday night will make it difficult to view the Leonid meteor shower, though you might be able to see the biggest and brightest of the meteors then.
Contrary to what you might think, you actually might have the most luck seeing meteors from the Leonid meteor shower at times when it isn’t at its “peak.” Good times when you should give this a try are between midnight and dawn Friday night, or possibly as late as in the middle of next week late at night.
Why is the annual Leonid meteor shower called the Leonid meteor shower?
The constellation of Leo, the Lion, is where the Leonid meteor shower originates. As mentioned earlier in this article, the meteors are parts of the comet, Tempel-Tuttle. Over time, it is breaking up, leaving parts of it behind, creating the yearly Leonid meteor shower. The meteors will appear as if they’re streaks of light coming from the mane of the Lion.
The Leonid meteors are often brighter and faster than those produced by other meteor showers, according to scientists at NASA. Fireballs sometimes accompany the Leonid meteors, leaving lingering colorful streaks of light behind — these are some of the bigger comet chunks.
Two peak viewing times, if you’d like to try viewing the Leonid meteor shower then, are on November 17 at 4:00 a.m. CST, and at 10:00 a.m. CST that same day.
Besides the viewing tips already mentioned, for the best results, you should drive out into the countryside to be away from the lights of big cities. The full moon on Sunday might make it more difficult to spot meteors that night, but it should still be possible to view the biggest and brightest meteors of the Leonid meteor show that night. Good luck viewing them, and please let me know if you were able to spot any in the comment area below!
Written by: Douglas Cobb