Leonid Meteor Shower: Fast, bright meteors light up the night sky
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Known as some of the fastest meteors around, the Leonids blaze across the night sky every year in the month of November. Historically, they are considered one of the most impressive meteor showers in history, largely due to the meteor storm they form approximately every 33 years, causing thousands of meteors to rain down into the night sky.
This is not a storm year, but there are still plenty of chances to see the brilliant Leonids. Rain is expected to peak at 7:00 PM ET on Thursday night. according to EarthSky. The celestial event will be visible to all those on the night side of the world at that time.
The Leonids meteor shower is active until December 2, along with the tail end of Meteor shower from the Northern Taurides. Around their peak, sky watchers could potentially see 10 to 15 meteors per hour. Meteors travel in the opposite direction to Earth’s rotation, causing a near-head-on collision with the atmosphere when they cross. Space rocks are often recorded shooting into the sky at 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second) — some of the fastest meteors produced by one of the major annual meteor showers, according to Robert Lunsford, coordinator of fireball reports for the American Meteor Society.
Brighter meteors often leave behind glowing trails and can even leave smoke streaks across the sky for a few minutes, Lunsford said.
The Leonids are also known for their striking fireballs, which are meteors so large that they shine brighter than Venus, and the Earth Shepherds, meteors that move close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails. according to NASA.
“They are the fastest meteors produced among the big annual meteor showers, and they have a certain appearance, like spears, very long and sharp,” Lunsford said. “They’re very impressive, especially the bright ones, so they’re probably among my favorites.”
The forecast for Thursday night, around the time of that peak, will be mostly clear skies along the coast of the United States (New York and Los Angeles) with a 0 percent chance of rain, according to CNN meteorologist Alison Chinchar. Those in the Midwest (Chicago) will have less favorable sky viewing conditions, with cloudy skies and a 30% chance of snow.
The best time to stay out looking for a meteor is this Thursday night into Friday morning, but the Meteor Society predicts that Earth may also pass through a condensed stream of debris left behind in 1733 by the Leonids’ mother comet, Temple – Tuttle.
If that happens, for a short time Saturday morning around 1 a.m. ET, there could be up to 250 meteors visible per hour, according to Lunsford. If you’re on the night side of Earth during this time, you can spot a meteor, but it’s best to keep an eye on the eastern horizon to increase your chances. (Those on the West Coast of the United States will have an even shorter window to see this burst, as Leo, the constellation from which the meteors appear to be emanating, will still be below the horizon.)
“We’ve gone back hundreds of years — because a comet passes through the inner solar system maybe every 33 years — so every one of those paths has been charted,” Lunsford said. “To a large extent, we can determine the time and date, but we have no idea what the particle density is. So it could be exciting or it could be bullshit.
The meteor society recommends going outside at least 30 minutes before the shower peaks to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Since the moon will rise at about the same time as the radiant constellation, it is best to look in a direction away from its light.
“Anyone can contribute scientifically useful information by just taking a few notes about these meteors. … You can go out and count how many you can see,” Lunsford said.
“It’s fun, it’s cheap and it’s a good way for families to get together. If your skies are clear at that time, I wouldn’t want to miss it.
There are only two more meteor showers you can see before the end of the year, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide. Here’s when they peak:
• December 14: Gemini
• December 22: Ursidi
There is another full moon on Old Farmer’s Almanac Calendar 2022: See the cold moon on December 7.