Leonid Meteors Peak Tonight
The annual Leonid meteor shower is active nearly the entire month of November, although the peak is expected tonight into early Tuesday morning. This shower happens as Earth crosses the path of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. This comet is ‘small’ in space terms, only around 2.2 miles across.
This year, the moon – or lack thereof – will be cooperating with us as it will set in the early evening. In a cloudless night sky with no moon, you might be able to see up to 10 to 15 meteors per hour at the peak.
But, around every 33 years (which is how long it takes the comet Tempel-Tuttle to orbit the sun) the Leonid meteor shower becomes a meteor storm. A meteor storm is defined as having at least 1,000 meteors per hour. In 1966 thousands of meteors fell in a 15 minute period. The Leonid Meteor storm of 1833 was said to feature more than 100,000 meteors per hour. The most recent Leonid meteor storm took place in 2002.
This meteor shower is named for the constellation Leo the Lion, because these meteor radiate outward from the constellation. But you’ll be able to see them streaking all over the night sky. Most people find Leo by looking a pattern of a backwards question mark. The bottom of The Big Dipper is parallel with Leo. It will be very low in the horizon to the East/Northeast. However, Leo will be below the horizon until after midnight.
Remember, your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness of night. So, bundle up and good luck!