Science

Leonid meteor shower to peak this weekend

Leonid meteor shower to peak this weekend

Studies have revealed that the extreme outbursts of Leonid activity are seen when the shower's parent object, a comet called Tempel-Tuttle, makes its closest approach to the sun. However, the meteor radiant (the region of sky from which they appear to originate, in the so-called Sickle of Leo) does not rise until after 10pm local time.

Individual meteors from the shower can be seen throughout November but they will peak in intensity in the late night hours of Friday 17 November and carry through to the morning of Saturday 18 November. It will serve as a flawless setting for the astronomy lovers to see the Leonid Meteor Shower. It has resulted in some mighty impressive displays in the past, with meteors falling at rates of up to 50,000 per hour.

Discovered in December 1865, Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle has an orbital period of 33 years and the number of meteoroids it spawns (and hence the number of shooting stars seen) grows in intensity when the comet is near perihelion. (Earth's orbit takes it straight through the debris trail.) The dust and debris ignite when it hits our atmosphere.

The annual shower began November 5 and will end November 30, but the forecasting service says best viewing will be between midnight Friday and dawn Saturday morning.

Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend: Ideal viewing conditions in store for millions
Leonids will light up the night sky Friday. Will Charlotte have a clear view?

For those who will miss the shower this month, they will have another shot when the Geminids meteor shower arrives in a few weeks. "Your eyes will gradually adjust by a half hour, then you will have ideal night vision".

If you have one, feel free to use it, but the shower can also been seen with the naked eye. Since we are close to new Moon, skies are conveniently dark and prospects are therefore good.

In general, east of the Rockies and the Southeast will have the best viewing conditions in the United States on both Friday and Saturday, according to weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce.