Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight


Leonid meteor shower peaks during the night and early morning hours of November 17 and 18. Waning-crescent moon is favorable for this year's Leonids peak and will provide dark enough skies for night sky watchers. Leonids will radiate from the constelation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky. 

Leonids are bright, colorful and fast meteors traveling at speeds of 71 km/s (44 mps) which peak during mid-November each year. They are considered to be a major meteor shower.

Leonids sky map. Image credit: International Meteor Organization

Although they can sometimes be seen at rate of more than thousands meteors per hour, a stream of debris from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 33 years, is forecasted to display mild activity with rate of no more than 15 meteors per hour this year.

In 1833 and 1966 Leonids produced tens of thousands of meteors per hour. In the years 1988 through to 2002 up to 3000 meteors per hour were recorded. Another meteor shower outburst is expected in year 2031 when Temple-Tuttle is going to be at its perihelion, or the closest point to the Sun.

Leonids are also known for their fireballs and earthgrazer meteors. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Fireballs are also brighter, with magnitudes brighter than -3. Earthgrazers are meteors that streak close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails.

If weather permits, go outside after midnight and find a nice place outside city lights. If you can't do that don't worry… Slooh will capture them with dynamics visuals and engaging audio giving us another unique way to experience the shooting stars by tracking their ionization sounds. Their free show starts at 01:00 UTC on Tuesday, November 18. That's 17:00 PST and 20:00 EST on November 17 and 06:30 IST and 14:00 NZST on November 18.

Featured image: Andrés Nieto Porras via Flickr

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