Thursday, November 17, 2011

Make a Wish: the Leonids are Coming

Look up at the sky tonight, and there's a good chance you'll see a shooting star. Tonight will be the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower, but it won't be seen in all of its glory due to a bright moon.


A Leonid fireball. Image copyright/credit: Lorenzo Lovato.

Peak activity is expected at approximately 10:40 PM EST. To see the meteors, it's best to view them far away from city lights, and you should allow your eyes to adjust to the night sky for about 15 minutes. Although there will be a bright third quarter moon, astronomers expect to see up to 20 meteors per hour.

On rare occasion—about every 33 years—the Leonids burn up in the atmosphere at a rate of thousands per hour when the meteor source comet, Temple-Tuttle, passes closest to the sun.

While tonight's show might be somewhat lackluster, there's still plenty of meteor watching to do before the end of the year. In December, the Geminid meteor shower will light up the night sky once again. According to early forecasts, the Geminids will put on a more luminous show than the Leonids.

For more information about the Leonid meteor shower, check out this article from Space.com.

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