The Leonid meteor shower is famous for offering some of the best meteor showers ever seen. In 1966, the Leonids offered a once in a lifetime viewing experience for skywatchers. In a 15 minute span during the morning of November 17, 1966 – thousands of meteors were seen.
Sadly, tonight’s Leonid meteor shower isn’t expected to come anywhere close to 1966’s. The comet responsible for tonight’s meteor shower is about as far from the sun as it gets.
Because of this, Astronomers expect meteor activity to be low. Skywatchers will need to find the darkest skies to see just 10 per hour.
For new skywatchers, don’t fall for the Leonid hype. While they are spectacular sometimes, the Leonid meteor shower isn’t the best meteor shower this holiday season. That title belongs to December’s 13-14 Geminids. In the best viewing conditions, you’ll be able to see anywhere from 50 to 100 meteors per hour.
Watching the Leonid Meteor Shower
The most important step for watching meteor showers is to get away from the city. Any park or field away from city lights is good.
The meteor shower will appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo, hence the name Leonids. Here’s an image to help you get your bearings.
Accuweather has a handy map for viewing conditions across the U.S. Most of the southern U.S. and out west will have a good viewing conditions. Weather won’t be cooperating for portions of the midwest, Ohio valley and northeast. For those folks, Slooh and NASA will offer webcasts tonight of the meteor shower.
The best viewing time will be in the predawn hours in the morning. But, with the show not expected to impress – it probably isn’t worth getting up for.
If you miss the meteor shower completely, check out SpaceWeather.com’s gallery tomorrow. It’s a great site, and should have some great images of the meteor shower up in the morning.