spaceSpace and Physics

The Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockNov 17 2016, 15:09 UTC


Although the bright Moon might get in the way, astronomy-lovers have the chance tonight to see the peak of the Leonids, one of the most famous and prolific meteor showers we witness on our planet.

They are fragments from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 33 years, and this swarm is responsible for the scientific and public interest in meteors. In 1833, the Leonids underwent a spectacular outburst with over 200,000 meteors per hour for almost 4 hours. 


Today’s peak unfortunately won’t compare to the historic meteor storms of the past. The last close passage of Tempel-Tuttle was in 1998, so we are crossing the least dense part of the cometary debris right now.

"This year, the Leonids are not in outburst, so the rates are going to be about 10 to 15 per hour," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told

The name of these meteors, Leonids, comes from the constellation of Leo (the lion) where they appear to originate from, but you don’t need to find the constellation to be able to spot them. Wherever you look at in the sky you should be able to see some. Supermoon permitting, the brightest meteors should be visible from both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres.

And if tonight is really not a good night, you can continue to catch the meteor shower until November 21.



spaceSpace and Physics
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