The Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak from midnight to dawn of Wednesday November 18, with those in America, Europe and Africa getting the best views during this period. The waxing-crescent moon will set before midnight, making the skies a perfectly dark amphitheatre for viewing the meteors.
What you’ll see in the sky is the littering of debris from comet Tempel-Tuttle. This nippy object is small by comet standards, with a nucleus (heart) of just 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles). When small fragments of the comet spit into our atmosphere, they burn up, creating that brilliant streak of light. Leonids are some of the speediest of all meteors, striking the Earth’s atmosphere at a whizzing 71 kilometers (44 miles) per second.
As ever, the best place to view the meteor shower is as far away from city lights and street lamps as possible to avoid that lingering light pollution. Although, it’s worth noting your eyes can take up to 45 minutes to fully adapt to the dark, so grab a coffee, get comfy and remain patient!
The shower is named after the Leo constellation, as the meteors will appear to emanate out of the stars that make up the lion’s mane.
The Leonid shower is known for its periodic “meteor storms,” which most astronomers classify when a meteor shower shows over 1,000 meteors an hour. For example, in 1833, the shower was said to produce more than 100,000 meteors an hour. This year, you probably shouldn’t expect such a grand show. However, there is still a prediction of 10 to 15 meteors an hour this year.