On the evening of Thursday, November 17 leading to the morning of Friday, November 18, 2022 Leonid Meteor Shower will reach its peak, offering skygazers willing to brave the biting cold an increased opportunity to spot streaks of light or the odd fireball Earth.
The Leonids, which last from November 6 to November 30 this year, are considered to be one of the most productive meteor shower experienced by earth. During Friday’s peak Leonid meteor production rate, the best way to see the Leonids is to look for the shower’s radiant point, located in the constellation Leo. Be sure to keep your gaze up close constellations since meteors farther from the radiant tend to have longer trains (glowing debris trails) and are easier to spot.
From a position in New York City, the Leonids meteor shower becomes visible each night after about 10:49 p.m. EST (0349 GMT), when its bright spot in Leo rises loudly above the eastern horizon In heaven. (opens in new tab)
Related: Meteor Shower 2022: Where, When and How to See Them
The favorable time to spot Leonid meteors is when the meteor shower’s beam point is highest in the sky around 06:00 EST (1100 GMT), but this is short-lived as the shower disappears as dawn breaks about 14 minutes later.
In good visibility conditions such as a dark sky with no light off the moonSkywatchers could expect to see between 10 and 15 meteors per hour, but real-world conditions obviously mean the number actually spotted is lower.
From November 16 through the morning climax of November 18, the fact that the Moon is only about 36% full provides a great opportunity to see the Leonids before they peak.
POSITION OF LEO CONSTELLATION:
Right Ascension: 11 hours
Declination: 15 degrees
Visible between: Latitudes 90 and minus 65 degrees
Meteor showers occur as the Earth completes its annual orbit The sun goes back through a cloud of debris as a comet In a much more elongated orbit, it approached the star, which heated up and shed material.
This material enters earth atmosphere vaporize at high speeds, causing streaks of light that we call meteors. Larger pieces of debris, often the size of pebbles, explode as fireballs over Earth as they enter our planet’s atmosphere.
The Leonids meteor shower is caused by a cloud of debris left in Earth’s orbit by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a 2.2-mile (35-kilometer-wide) comet that orbits the Sun about once every 33 years.
When Earth passes through this debris cloud once a year in November, debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle enters Earth’s atmosphere at about 160,000 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour), producing streaks of light and an occasional fireball.
Roughly every 33 years, the debris from this comet creates what is known as a “meteor storm,” defined as at least 1,000 meteors per hour. This year’s Leonids will not be a meteor storm, meaning that even at their peak they will fall well short of the spectacular meteor storm that lucky sky-gazers saw on the morning of November 17, 1966.
On this day in November 56 years ago, the Leonids produced one of the most infamous meteor showers in living memory with thousands of meteors being seen every minute for a 15 minute period that morning.
A little further back in time, the Leonid meteor storm was even more spectacular in 1833, when debris rained down from space and through Earth’s atmosphere at an estimated rate of 100,000 meteors per hour.
Related: The greatest meteor storms of all time
The last Leonid meteor storms occurred from 1999 to 2001, and although they were more subdued than 1833 and 1966, they still managed to produce about 3,000 meteors per hour.
Meteor storms are most prominent at times of the comet’s close approach to the Sun perihelion. Comet Tempel-Tuttle’s last close approach to the Sun was in 1998, and the comet will again be close to our star to replenish the debris field feeding the Leonids meteor shower in 2031.
Earth isn’t predicted to fly through dense patches of comet debris until 2099, meaning skygazers won’t see another spectacular Leonid meteor storm until the end of this century.
If you want more advice on photographing the Leonids meteor shower, check out our guide to photographing meteors and meteor showers. If you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you capture the Leonids meteor shower and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.
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