Astronomy fans around the world will soon be treated to a glittering spectacle in the form of the Leonid Meteor Shower. You can see meteors raining down through the rest of the month, with peak activity coming late at night on November 16 and in the morning hours of November 17!
This meteor shower occurs annually in November, with average years bringing about 10-15 meteors per hour. At this time in 2021, the moon will be fairly bright, so it’s best to catch the meteor shower from as rural and dark a place as possible, just before dawn and after the moon has set. NASA tells us that it will take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust in the dark and pick up on the meteors, so be patient! See this light pollution map to find a dark sky near you.
According to EarthSky, the Leonids are a result of Earth entering Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttel’s orbital path, which releases bits of debris that vaporize in Earth’s atmosphere and create streaks of light across the sky. The Leonid Meteor Shower is so named because the meteors appear to radiate from the Leo the Lion constellation. That said, you’ll be able to see them in all parts of the sky because they don’t become visible until after exiting the radiant point.
The Leonids are famous for producing meteor storms (over 1,000 meteors per hour) although scientists do not expect that to occur this year. The storms occur every 33 years, and the most recent one was in 2002. Back in 1833, the Leonids created one of the most impressive storms on record, when hundreds of thousands of meteors fell each hour. The same thing happened in 1966. We’ll have to wait 14 years for another chance like that, but you can still enjoy some awesome stargazing in the meantime!
Be sure to catch the Leonid Meteor Shower early in the morning on Wednesday, November 17.
Featured image: Michal Mancewicz via Unsplash