It’s been fairly cloudy all week, but Mother Nature’s timing is looking good. The clouds are starting to move out as one of the year’s best meteor showers comes to a peak in our nighttime sky. It’s time for the annual Leonid meteor shower.   Some years, the Leonids put on a great show, in fact some years, they refer to the showers as a “storm”.  The great Leonid meteor storm of 1833 was perhaps the most spectacular in recorded history. Visible across eastern North America, the storm produced as many as 200,000 meteors per hour, startling 19th-century observers into a glazed stupor. Nearly everyone awakened to see the bright meteors and attending commotion on the morning of November 12.  We can’t expect that kind of display, but this weekend, the Moon is not around to obscure faint meteors, so this should be a good year to see the Leonids.

So where should you look?  The “shooting stars” can appear anywhere in the sky, but they trace their path back to a point in the constellation Leo.  This shower is named the Leonids because they appear to radiate from a point just inside the Sickle of the constellation Leo. It's not important to know exactly where the radiant is because the longest and brightest meteors are usually about 90 degrees away from the radiant. The radiant will be roughly half way up the eastern sky, so the best directions to look are south, north, and directly overhead. Look for 15-20 meteors per hour

And when should you venture out? The best time to observe meteors is always after midnight, when the Earth is heading directly into the meteor stream. Although the peak is predicted for 4 a.m. Saturday morning, Leonids may be seen at any time in the night, and for a day or two before and after Saturday morning.

 

Happy sky watching

Chief Meteorologist

Cindy Day