Tonight doesn’t get much better for watching a meteor shower. But it’s not the number that will impress. Peak rates in the early hours of Saturday morning will be just over a dozen. You’ll need clear, rural skies to see that many.
What makes tonight such a good night is two fold. The tiny leftovers trailing comet Tempel-Tuttle will slam into Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 71 kilometers per second. Bigger chunks can create fireballs, meteors that light up the night’s sky for a moment. Believe me, you’ll know a fireball when you see one.
Tonight is also a new moon. We won’t have the moon washing out only the brightest meteors.
Where to look?
It’s a common misconception to look towards a meteor shower radiant point. Sure, that’s where the shower gets its name (the constellation Leo the Lion) – but it’s not important for watching meteor showers.
When is more important. You’ll want to head outside after midnight to hopefully catch a Leonid fireball. Lie down, get comfy, and soak in as much of the night’s sky as possible. Location is also important. An open field or park away from city lights is ideal. The darker the sky, the better.
No meteor storm this year
Unfortunately, we won’t be witnessing a meteor storm tonight. Leonids are known for producing meteor storms with more than 1,000 meteors an hour. One storm in 1833 is said to have produced upwards of 100,000 meteors an hour at its peak. That had to a stunning sight to see.
If you find yourself outside tonight, take a look up. The Leonids won’t dazzle you with their numbers, but it only takes one good fireball to make a great night of skywatching. Give yourself about 30 minutes to let your eyes adjust to the darkness.