Tonight the Leonid meteor shower will be at its best as 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour fly through the night sky.
Over the centuries, the Leonids have produced intense storms of thousands of visible meteors per hour. Although the 2020 Leonids won’t be as flashy, it will still offer an opportunity to see approximately 10 to 15 meteors—colloquially known as “shooting stars”—per hour at its peak, reported EarthSky.
The Leonids are active from November 6 to November 30, but the shower is expected to be at its peak from Monday night into Tuesday morning, November 16 to 17, when the moon is far from being full, offering little interference, according to the International Meteor Organization.
On this night, the moon will be about 5 percent full, meaning there will be dark skies and good viewing conditions, although some observers are already reporting that they have spotted Leonid meteors.
Head to an area away from light pollution (city lights, traffic) with a wide, unobstructed view to maximize your chance of seeing the show. No special equipment is necessary to see the meteors, but it may be worth bringing a reclining chair, blanket or sleeping bag to lay on as you will need to watch the sky for an extended period of time.
NASA advises that you orient yourself with your feet toward the east, lie flat on your back and take in as much as the night sky as possible. In under 30 minutes, your eyes should adapt to being in the dark. It is best to use your naked eye as binoculars or telescopes may limit your field of vision.
NASA also reminds viewers to be patient. The Leonids will last until dawn on Tuesday, so there is plenty of time to catch the show.
Viewers should keep in mind, however, that excess moonlight and unforeseen weather can obscure the meteor shower. If that happens, there are typically Leonid live streams hosted by NASA and Slooh, according to The New York Times.
The Leonids are best known for producing meteor storms—particularly intense meteor showers—in 1833, 1866, 1966, 1999 and 2001. The most famous of these was the one in 1833, which reportedly produced a staggering 100,000 to 200,000 meteors per hour. The intense outbursts of activity tend to occur about every 33 years, when the parent comet, 55P/ Tempel-Tuttle, is closest to the sun.
Meteor showers are celestial events during which numerous meteors stream across the night sky, appearing to originate from a single point known as the radiant. These events occur when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets and (rarely) asteroids.