Leonid Meteor Shower: Fast, bright meteors light up the night sky

Leonid Meteor Shower: Fast, bright meteors light up the night sky

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Known as some of the fastest meteors out there, the Leonids streak across the night sky during the month of November each year. Historically, they are considered some of the most impressive meteor showers on record, largely due to the meteor storm they form approximately every 33 years, showering thousands of meteors into the night sky.

This is not a year for a storm, but there are still plenty of chances to see the brilliant Leonids. Thursday night, the storm is expected to peak at 7 p.m. ET. according to EarthSky. The celestial event will be visible to everyone on the night side of the world at that time.

The Leonids meteor shower is active through December 2, along the tip of the North Taurid Meteor Shower. Around their peak, stargazers could see 10 to 15 meteors per hour. The meteors move in the opposite direction of Earth’s rotation, causing a near head-on collision with the atmosphere as they cross each other. The space rocks often shoot through the sky at 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second) — some of the fastest meteors produced by a major annual meteor shower, according to Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society.

The brighter meteors often leave glowing trails and can even leave streaks of smoke in the sky for minutes at a time, Lunsford said.

The Leonids are also known for their striking fireballs, which are meteors so large they shine brighter than Venus, and terrestrial grazers, meteors that streak close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails. according to NASA.

“They’re the fastest meteors produced under the big annual meteor shower, and they look like lances in a way, very long and sharp,” Lunsford said. “They’re very impressive, especially the bright ones, so that’s probably why they’re among my favourites.”

The forecast for Thursday evening, around the time of this peak, will be mostly clear skies on the coasts of the United States (New York City and Los Angeles) with a 0% chance of rain, according to Allison Chinchar, CNN meteorologist. Those in the Midwest (Chicago) will have less favorable sky viewing conditions, with overcast skies and a 30% chance of snow.

The best time to stay out to look for a meteor is this Thursday evening through Friday morning, but the Meteor Association has predicted that Earth may also pass through a condensed stream of debris left behind in 1733 by the Leonids’ parent comet, Tempel- Tuttle. .

If this happens, up to 250 meteors per hour may be visible for a short time Saturday morning around 1 a.m. ET, Lunsford said. If you’re on the night side of the Earth at this time, you might see a meteor, but it’s best to keep an eye on the eastern horizon to increase your chances. (Those on the west coast of the United States will have an even shorter window to see this outburst, since Leo, the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate, will still be below the horizon.)

“We’ve gone back hundreds of years — because the comet goes through the inner solar system maybe every 33 years — so each of those paths has been mapped out,” Lunsford said. “We can determine the time and date quite well, but we have no idea what the density of the particles is. So it could be exciting, or it could be a dud.

The meteor society recommends going outside at least 30 minutes before the peaks of the storm so your eyes can adjust to the dark. Since the Moon will rise almost at the same time as the radiant constellation, it’s best to look in a direction away from the light.

“Anyone can contribute scientifically useful information just by making a few notes about these meteors. … You can go out and count how many you can see. Lunsford said.

“It’s fun, it’s cheap and it’s a great way for families to get together. If your sky is clear at the time, I wouldn’t want to miss it.

There are only two more meteor showers you can see before the end of the year, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide. This is when they peak:

• December 14: Geminids

• December 22: Ursids

There is another full moon on the The Old Farmer’s Almanac Calendar for 2022: Watch the cold moon on December 7.

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