The Leonid meteor shower is happening this week


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to skywatching these past few months. And now the Universe is delivering again, with the Leonid meteor shower peaking on 18 November.

Although the shower is technically viewable from most places in the world, the timing lines up perfectly for those in the US, who can expect to see around 15 meteors per hour between midnight and dawn on Wednesday morning.

So what is the Leonid meteor shower and why should you care? The shower occurs when Earth moves through the dust trailing behind the comet Tempel-Tuttle, and small pieces of debris – roughly around the size of a pea – burn up in our atmosphere.

That may not sound as impressive as the large chunks of debris that produced fireballs during the Taurid meteor shower early this month, but these little meteors still going to put on a beautiful show.

Impressively, the Leonid is also the fastest meteor shower that we encounter here on Earth, with fragments of space dust hitting our atmosphere at an incredible 254,276 km/h (158,000 mph).

In the past, the Leonid meteor shower has been known to produce meteor storms, with unprecedented numbers of comets streaking through the sky. Back in 1966, this produced an incredible show, with people in the US’s southwest reporting seeing up to 3,000 meteors per minute.

But these meteor storms only happen roughly every 33 years – the same amount of time it takes for the comet to complete an orbit around the Sun – and isn’t predicted again until around 2032.

And that’s not the only bad news. The US is facing some serious storms this week that will block views for about 20 states, Accuweather is predicting. You can see a map of states with poor viewing conditions predicted below:

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Author: Harlem Valley News