It’s that time of the year again! The annual Leonid meteor shower is set to peak in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday, Nov. 17, and again on Tuesday, Nov. 20.If you can’t see the spectacular display in the flesh, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight centre will broadcast a live Ustream telescope view of the skies over Hunstville, Alabama (video embedded below).
The dazzling display happens every year around mid-November as Earth passes through a stream of debris left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
The shower gets its name because the meteors appear to come from the constellation Leo the Lion.
Although a dark night sky means we should be able to see the meteors pretty clearly, this will be one of the tamer showers in terms of meteors per hour. We can expect to see 15 to 20 meteors per hour, NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said in a statement.
The intensity of meteors has to do with how close comet Tempel-Tuttle gets to the sun, which heats the comet, forcing gas and dust to flow outward from the centre. The last time Tempel-Tuttle made its closest approach to the sun was about 14 years ago, resulting in particularly strong showers (thousands of meteors per hour) between 1998 and 2002.
Even still, we recommend setting your alarm clock early to view the stunning event.
The meteors are usually bright and look white or bluish-white, though “some observers reported yellow-pink and copper-coloured” meteors in recent years, according to Astronomy.com’s Michael E. Bakich.
The meteor shower follows a rare total solar eclipse, visible in person to a lucky few in Australia.
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