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Known as some of the world’s fastest meteors, the Leonids blaze across the night sky every year during the month of November. Historically, they are considered one of the most impressive meteor showers on record, largely due to the meteor storm they form approximately every 33 years, causing thousands of meteors to shower across the night sky. .
It’s not a year for a storm, but there are still plenty of chances to see the brilliant Leonids. Thursday evening, the shower is expected to peak at 7 p.m. ET, according to EarthSky. The celestial event will be visible to all who are on the night side of the world at the time.
The Leonid meteor shower is active until December 2, along the tail of the North Taurid meteor shower. Around their peak, skywatchers could potentially observe 10 to 15 meteors per hour. Meteors move against the direction of Earth’s rotation, colliding almost head-on with the atmosphere when they pass each other. According to Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society.
The brightest meteors often leave trails of light behind them and may even leave trails of smoke in the sky for several minutes, Lunsford said.
The Leonids are also known for hitting fireballs, which are meteors so big they shine brighter than Venus, and terrestrial grazers, meteors that extend close to the horizon and are known for their long tails and colored, according to NASA.
“These are the fastest meteors produced among the major annual meteor showers, and they have a certain spear-like appearance, very long and sharp,” Lunsford said. “They’re very impressive, especially the shiny ones, which is why they’re probably some of my favorites.”
The forecast for Thursday evening, around the time of that peak, will be mostly clear skies over the US coasts (New York and Los Angeles) with 0% chance of rain, according to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Those in the Midwest (Chicago) will have less favorable conditions for skywatching, with overcast skies and a 30% chance of snow.
The best time to stay outside to look for a meteor is this Thursday evening through Friday morning, but the Meteor Society has predicted Earth may also pass through a condensed stream of debris left behind in 1733 by the Leonid parent comet, Tempel- Tuttle. .
If that happens, for a short period Saturday morning around 1 a.m. ET, there could be up to 250 meteors visible per hour, according to Lunsford. If you’re on the night side of Earth during this time, you might spot a meteor, but it’s best to keep an eye out for the eastern horizon to increase your chances. (Those on the west coast of the United States will have an even shorter window to see this outburst, as Leo, the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate, will still be below the horizon.)
“We went back hundreds of years – because the comet passes through the inner solar system maybe every 33 years – so each of these paths has been mapped,” Lunsford said. “We can roughly determine the time and date, but we have no idea of the particle density. So it could be exciting, or it could be a dud.
The Meteor Society recommends going out at least 30 minutes before the shower peaks, to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Since the moon will rise almost at the same time as the radiant constellation, it is best to look in a direction away from its light.
“Anyone can contribute scientifically useful information by simply taking a few notes on these meteors. … You can go out and count how many you can see. said Lunsford.
“It’s fun, it’s inexpensive and it’s a great way for families to get together. If your skies are clear at that time, I wouldn’t want to miss it.
There are only two more meteor showers you can see before the end of the year, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide. Here’s when they peak:
• December 14: Geminids
• December 22: Ursids
There’s another full moon on The Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar for 2022: Discover the cold moon on December 7.
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