Home Science Leonid meteor shower peaks: How to see it

Leonid meteor shower peaks: How to see it

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The annual Leonid meteor shower will peak late Friday night.

According to NASA, Leo is a fragment ejected by Comet Tempel-Tuttle as it passes near the Sun.

When cometary debris enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns up, it leaves a bright streak in the night sky.

Observers can see the shower directly above, leaving a bright meteor trail that lasts for a few seconds.

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The 1999 Leonid meteor burst seen at 38,000 feet with a 50 mm camera from the Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign (Leonid MAC).
(Image credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/ISAS/Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano)

However, the Moon is about 35% full, which reduces fainter meteors.

Under clear, dark skies, you can see about 15-20 meteors per hour.

At 1:45 AM MT on November 17, NASA's all-sky camera at New Mexico State University captured this image of the Leonid meteor traversing the sky.

At 1:45 AM MT on November 17, NASA’s all-sky camera at New Mexico State University captured this image of the Leonid meteor traversing the sky.
(NASA)

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The name of the shower comes from the constellation Leo, the Lion, from which meteors seem to radiate.

More than 100 meteors were recorded in this composite image taken during the peak of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower.

More than 100 meteors were recorded in this composite image taken during the peak of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower.
(Credit: NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser, NASA Meteor Environment Agency)

Although the Moon rises in the East with Leo around midnight local time, it is better to lie on your back and look straight up to see the sky away from its apparent origin.

Comet Tempel-Tuttle was actually discovered twice independently.

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In December, skywatchers can expect Gemini and Ursa Major.

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