Known as some of the fastest meteors, the Leonids blaze across the night sky annually during the month of November. Historically, they are considered one of the most impressive meteor showers on record, largely due to the meteor storm that forms roughly every 33 years, causing thousands of meteors to fall into the night sky.
This is not a year for a storm, but there is still a good chance of seeing the brilliant Leonids. On Thursday night, the shower is expected to peak at 7 p.m. ET, according to EarthSky.
The celestial event will be visible to all those on the night side of the world at that time.
The Leonid meteor shower is active until December 2, along with the end of the Northern Taurids meteor shower . Around its peak, skygazers could potentially observe 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
The meteors move in the opposite direction of Earth's rotation, causing a near head-on collision with the atmosphere when they pass.
Space rocks are often recorded shooting across the sky at 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second), some of the fastest meteors produced in one of the major annual meteor showers, according to Robert Lunsford, fireball reporting coordinator for the American Meteor Society.
The brightest meteors often leave bright trails and can even leave streaks of smoke in the sky for several minutes, Lunsford said.
The Leonids are also known for striking fireballs, which are meteors so large they outshine Venus, and the Earth Grazers, meteors that approach the horizon and are known for their long, colorful tails. according to NASA.
"They are the fastest meteors produced among the major annual meteor showers, and they look sort of like spears, very long and sharp," Lunsford said.
“They are very impressive, especially the shiny ones, which is probably why they are among my favorites.”
The forecast for Thursday night around the time of this peak will be mostly clear skies along the US coasts (New York and Los Angeles) with a 0% chance of rain, according to CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar. . Those in the Midwest (Chicago) will have less favorable conditions for observing the sky, with overcast skies and a 30% chance of snow.
spot a meteor
The best time to stay outside to look for a meteor is Thursday night through Friday morning, but the Meteor Society has predicted that Earth could also pass through a condensed stream of debris left behind in 1733 by the parent comet of the Leonids, Tempel-Tuttle. .
If this occurs, for a short time on Saturday morning around 1 a.m. ET, there could be as many as 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 on the eastern horizon to increase your chances. (Those on the west coast of the United States will have an even shorter window to view this burst, since Leo, the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate, will still be below the horizon.)
"We've gone back hundreds of years, because the comet passes through the inner solar system maybe every 33 years, so every one of those paths has been mapped out," Lunsford said. “We can pinpoint the time and date, but we have no idea what the density of the particles is. So it could be exciting, or it could be a flop."
La meteor society recommends going outside at least 30 minutes before the rain peaks, to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Since the moon will rise at about the same time as the radiating constellation, it is best to look in a direction away from its light.
“Anyone can contribute scientifically useful information simply by taking a few notes on these meteors. … You can go out and count how many you can see.” Lunsford said.
“It's fun, it's cheap, and it's a great way for families to come together. If your skies are clear at that time, I don't want to miss it."
Other space events this year
There are only two more meteor showers you can see before the end of the year, according to EarthSky's 2022 meteor shower guide . This is when they peak:
• December 14: Geminids
• December 22: Ursids
There's one more full moon in the The Old Farmer's Almanac calendar for 2022: take a look at the cold moon on December 7th.