Leonid Meteor Shower 2012: Viewing Tips

The Leonid meteor shower will peak Saturday and next Tuesday.

Keep your eyes on the sky over McLean Saturday night, because the famous Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak in the pre-dawn hours.

These meteors move quickly (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion and may vary in color.

"Many Leonids are also bright. Usually, the meteors are white or bluish-white, but in recent years some observers reported yellow-pink and copper-colored ones," according to Astronomy.com

If you miss the show Saturday night, the meteor shower will peak again Tuesday, Nov. 20.

According to Space.com, Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. This shower is called the Leonids shower because the meteors seem to come from a point in the constellation Leo (but they are really much closer to Earth than those stars). The starting point, called the radiant, is found in the part of Leo that looks to be a backwards question mark.

In some past years, the Leonids have been called a meteor "storm" (rather than just a "shower"), but astronomers predict this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." 

A report from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: there will be "two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20)."

What is a meteor? It's the streak of light that we see when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. The Leonids usually contain many bright meteors with trails that can be seen for several minutes. Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.

The shower began earlier this month.

To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully. 

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch.

Eric L November 17, 2012 at 09:41 AM
My son and I actually saw quite a few Leonids about 10 years ago. He is now in college and I reminded him of it and told him he might expect more. We both woke up and messaged/texted each other @4:30 this morning. I am in Lake Ridge VA, he is in SE Ohio. Nothing. Disappointing. But it was a cool memory we had together 10 years ago.


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