This month’s Leonid meteor shower could trigger an eruption of shooting stars

This month’s Leonid meteor shower could trigger an eruption of shooting stars

a swarm fireballs of the Taurid meteor shower has already made November a fiery month for meteors. The arrival of the Leonids could trigger a full-blown meteor storm next week.

While the Taurids are known to travel relatively slowly because they burn up in the atmosphere and produce a number of fireballs (especially this year), the Leonids are considered a quick squall, producing fast, bright shooting stars.

A few times a century, the Leonids throw an absolute frenzy of fire in the sky, with hundreds and even thousands of shooting stars visible every hour.

The cause is dust, debris and debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every year around this time, our planet drifts through clouds of cometary feces left behind during previous travels through the solar system. And about every 33 years, we seem to hit a particularly dense bag of matter, resulting in one such storm. This happened most recently in 2001, which was a bit of a bonus considering it came just two years after an expected storm in 1999.

While the next Leonid meteor storm from that branch of debris isn’t expected until 2031, these things are unpredictable. According to the American Meteor Societythere is a chance that in 2022 we will encounter another dust field related to the comet’s visit in 1733. This could produce anywhere from 50 to more than 200 meteors per hour in the waning hours of November 18 through the following morning .

Again, there are no guarantees for any of this, as meteor showers are extremely fickle. But the best-case scenario could make for some excellent nights of sky-gazing. The Leonids’ regular peak is expected in the late evening hours of November 17 until early morning the following morning. Expect 10 to 15 meteors per hour under ideal viewing conditions. The next night we could have an eruption that would increase those numbers by an order of magnitude, if we’re lucky.

To experience the spectacle, you’ll want to find an area with expansive views of a cloudless sky and no light pollution. You can find the Leo constellation with an app like Stellarium and orient yourself so that Leo’s head is in the center of your field of view. Leonid meteors seem to radiate into the sky from this point, hence the name.

It is not necessary that you orientate yourself this way, as the meteors will cross the entire sky, but it can improve things. It’s probably a little more important to keep the waning moon out of your line of sight so shooting stars aren’t washed out.

Once you are oriented and comfortable, you can just sit back and relax. After your eyes adjust, you should be on your way to seeing at least a few meteors if you give the whole experience a full hour or more.

Good luck and have fun spotting!

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