Most of the time, I would tell you that a meteor shower’s peak is the best time to look. But, mother nature won’t be cooperating for many of us across the U.S. The Leonid meteor shower is set to peak on Tuesday night at midnight (local time for wherever you live).
The cloud cover forecast from Accuweather says it all. Unless you live in Maine or the Southwest, the chances of you seeing Leonids during the peak are slim.
If you do decide to venture out tonight, here’s everything you need to know about the Leonid meteor shower.
Where to look?
Leonids get their name from the constellation they appear to originate from – the constellation Leo. But looking for the radiant point isn’t as important as you might think. Leonids will be streaking across much of the sky, so it doesn’t matter where you look.
The constellation Leo rises in the east after midnight. A good rule of thumb? Just lay back with your feet pointing east and get comfortable. Also, try to find an area away from street lights. Your best bet is to try and find a secluded area away from the city. The darker the skies, the more meteors you will see. And don’t get disappointed if you don’t see any right away. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to completely adjust to the darkness.
What to expect?
Sorry guys, no meteor storm for us this year. NASA says the Leonids will peak at about 15 meteors per hour. We’re in the lull for peak Leonids. Every 33 years or so, we have a chance of seeing an incredible event from the Leonid meteor shower – a meteor storm. Those 15 meteors per hour? Try 1,000+.
The last Leonid meteor storm happened in 2002. But one of the most well-known meteor storm events happened in 1966. Folks living in the Southwest saw thousands of meteors per minute during a 15 minute period. People who saw said it looked like a rainfall of meteors. Here’s how one eyewitness described it:
“The sky was full of meteor trails as though a huge but silent fireworks display were underway. We watched spellbound for 15 or 20 minutes. At one point I tried to count the trails, but I was unable to keep up. There were more than 10,000 per hour. It had to be the most remarkable natural phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed.”
Every November 17th or so, Earth moves through the debris cloud created by comet Tempel-Tuttle. Because the comet’s orbit almost exactly intersects Earth’s orbit, the debris cloud produces one of the best annual meteor showers.
Leonids will slam into the Earth’s atmosphere at 44 miles per second leaving bright trails in their wake.
This year’s peak isn’t a meteor storm, but there’s still a good chance to see several bright meteors after midnight. Don’t focus on the peak either. Just head outside any day this week when the skies are clear.