Leonid Meteors Versus the Moon

Robert Bigelow

The Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak about 10:00 a.m. MST on Sunday, November 17. This meteor shower occurs every year as Earth plows though a stream of dusty debris shed by comet Temple-Tuttle. Meteor showers are best observed away from city lights. However, this year, full moon also occurs on November 17, so dimmer meteors will be washed out by moonlight at any observing location. Under dark skies without interference from moonlight, about 15 to 20 Leonid meteors per hour can be seen. Even with low numbers the sky show can be impressive as some Leonid meteors tend to be bright and leave persistent trails.

Leonids Meteor Shower Copyright 1998 Wally Pacholka

Leonids Meteor Shower
Copyright 1998 Wally Pacholka

Meteor showers are best seen with the eyes, so no special equipment is needed. However, a lawn chair and plenty of warm winter clothing will help make the observing session more comfortable. Where is the best place to look? Look up. While the meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Leo, they can be seen all over the sky.  The best time to observe the shower is after midnight on November 17 when Utah is facing into the meteor stream.

This meteor shower is famous because approximately every 33 years, Earth collides with a dense portion of the stream and we experience a meteor storm, thousands of meteors per hour. This last occurred in 2001, so we have a long wait for the next period for storm like activity. Even so, mark November 17, 2034 on your calendar. The moon phase will be just before first quarter then, so moonlight will not wash out that storm if it arrives.

Happy viewing!

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>