Leonid meteor shower: Stargazers set for amazing show as cosmic spectacle set to peak this weekend
This year, the Leonids are going to be a downer as the shower itself is expected to be mild, and there will be a waning gibbous moon lighting up the predawn sky.
Get set to see bright green shooting stars streak across the night sky this weekend as the Leonid meteor shower will peak over the weekend from November 16 through 18, bringing up to 15 shooting stars per hour.
This year, the Leonids are going to be a downer as the shower itself is expected to be mild, and there will be a waning gibbous moon lighting up the predawn sky. Considered to be "a major shower" active from November 6 to 30, it will only peak on Sunday into Monday, according to NASA. The agency called them "bright meteors that can also be colorful." The meteor shower is caused by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which sweeps through the inner solar system every 33.3 years.
Whenever the comet makes its closest pass to the sun, it leaves a stream of cosmic detritus which leads to a dramatic trail if the Earth scores a direct hit as they slam into the atmosphere with velocities up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) per second. The comet will not pass through the solar system until 2031 so this year's Leonids will show low activity — with just 10 or 15 meteors per hour. The last Leonids storm in 1999 produced about 3,000 meteors and there were more than 100,000 shooting stars seen in the sky during the storms of 1833 and 1966.
Despite the poor forecast, if you are hellbent on trying to catch a glimpse of the Leonid, go outside, lie on your back and wait. Apart from the lack of bright moon in the sky, local pollution and obstructions like tall trees and skyscrapers might also reduce the chances of viewing a meteor. Set your alarm post-midnight as Leo will not come fully into view until then.
"The great Leonid meteor storm of 1833 did more to spawn the study of meteors than any other single event," according to the American Meteor Society. The next storm will only be seen in 2099.