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Known as one of the fastest meteors around, 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, mainly due to the meteor storm they form approximately every 33 years, causing thousands of meteors to fall into the night sky.
This is not a storm year, but there are still plenty of chances to see the brilliant Leonids. On Thursday evening, the rain is expected to peak at 7 pm ET, according to EarthSki. 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, next to the tail end of the Northern Taurid meteor shower. Around their peak, sky watchers could potentially see 10 to 15 meteors per hour. Meteors move in the opposite direction to Earth’s rotation, causing a near-head-on collision with the atmosphere when they cross. Space rocks are often recorded shooting through the sky at 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second) — some of the fastest meteors produced from one of the largest annual meteor showers, according to Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society.
Brighter meteors often leave behind bright trails and can even leave smoke trails in the sky for up to several minutes, Lunsford said.
The Leonids are also known for hitting fireballs, which are meteors so large they shine brighter than Venus, and for pastures on Earth, meteors that stretch close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails, according to NASA.
“They 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 bright ones, so that’s probably why they’re among my favorites.”
The forecast for Thursday night, around the time of this peak, will be mostly clear skies along the coast of the United States (New York and Los Angeles) with a 0% chance of rain, according to Alison Chinchar, CNN meteorologist. Those in the Midwest (Chicago) will have less favorable sky viewing conditions, with cloudy skies and a 30% chance of snow.
The best time to be out looking for a meteor is Thursday night into Friday morning, but the meteor society predicted that Earth could also pass through a condensed stream of debris left in 1733 by the Leonids’ parent comet, Tempel-Tuttle. .
If that happens, for a brief period Saturday morning around 1 a.m. ET, up to 250 meteors per hour could be visible, 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 see this outburst, as Leo, the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate, will still be below the horizon.)
“We’ve gone back hundreds of years — because a comet passes through the inner solar system maybe every 33 years — so every one of those paths is charted,” Lunsford said. “We can pretty much determine the time and date, but we have no idea what the particle density is.” So it can be exciting, or it can be stupid.”
The Meteor Society recommends going outside at least 30 minutes before the shower peaks, so your eyes can adjust to the darkness. Since the Moon will rise almost at the same time as the bright constellation, it is best to look in a direction away from its light.
“Anyone can contribute scientifically useful information with just a few notes about these meteors.” … You can go out and count as many as you can see.” Lunsford said.
“It’s fun, cheap and a good way to bring families 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 EarthSki’s 2022 meteor shower guide. Here’s when they peak:
• December 14: Geminids
• December 22: Ursidi
There’s another full moon on the Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar for 2022: Check out the cold moon on December 7.