Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now Join Now!

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

   Please leave this field empty
Blogs

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks on the 17th

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

16-11-2009 14:16 CST

Topics:

Bruce Bettsby Bruce Betts

The Leonid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday, November 17. The Leonids are a highly variable shower, and as such are a bit of a gamble on what you'll see. Could be great, could be so-so. But, there are predictions of a few hour peak with perhaps 300 meteors per hour centered at about 1:45 p.m. Pacific time, which will be great for those in darkness at that time, particularly in pre-dawn hours occurring in Asia. For those elsewhere, the best time to view will probably be your local pre-dawn hours on the 17th. In any case, the good news is there should be no moonlight to interfere with the meteor shower.

The Leonids are caused by debris from comet Tempel-Tuttle. Each year, when Earth passes through the orbital debris trail left behind by the comet, we get an increased number dust and sand-sized particles hitting the upper atmosphere at very high speeds. As they vaporize, we get nice streaks of light crossing the sky -- meteors. But, each year, we pass through slightly different parts of past orbital debris left around by the comet. If we pass through a very "clumpy" part, we get lots of meteors.

They are named the Leonids because their trails will all point back to the so-called radiant in the constellation Leo. The meteors can appear all around the sky, but if you trace an imaginary line back along their trail, a true Leonid will intersect Leo.

The Leonids are particularly unusual with huge peaks every 33 years or so, but the last occurred only a few years ago. So, usually they now give about 20 meteors per hour, rating them a bit mediocre. This year, though, some astronomers are predicting hitting a bit clumpier region elevating it to a most excellent 300 meteors per hour right at the peak, and perhaps 50-100 per hour a few hours before and after. So, the question you have to ask yourself this year is, do you feel lucky? If you do, relax, stay warm, and stare at the sky under the darkest sky you can find.

 
See other posts from November 2009

 

Or read more blog entries about:

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

JOIN THE
PLANETARY SOCIETY

Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

NavCam view of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 31, 2014

South Georgia island
ATV-5 and a waning moon
Moscow at night
More Images

Fly to an Asteroid!

Travel to Bennu on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft!

Send your name

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!