Science

New moon will mean spectacular Leonid meteor shower this weekend

New moon will mean spectacular Leonid meteor shower this weekend

It's already been a week filled with fireball sightings, but the traveling light show from space stands to reach a spectacular crescendo Friday night and early Saturday morning as the annual Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak.

The Leonid meteor shower, which is a mid-November spike in shooting stars, happens each year thanks to Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The minute particles, just half a gram each, burn up in the upper atmospheric layers causing a attractive show to appear.

The Leonid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Leo.

The Leonid shower is well known for these fast meteors, the brightest of which can leave persistent trains that appear to hang in the air for several seconds.




You'll be able to see meteors on nights beyond the 17th as well, as particles from the comet rain into our atmosphere.

During the most recent Leonid cycle, however, meteor rates were much lower. For context, in 2002 more than 3,000 meteors fell in an hour, reports National Geographic. It is important to be far away from artificial lights. But they are always somewhat unpredictable.

Although this year's show won't be almost that dramatic, the rate of shooting stars will still be several times higher than a typical night - and exceptionally bright and fast.

Meteor Shower Quiz: How Well Do You Know "Shooting Stars"? As such, potential major Leonid displays in 2031, 2032 and 2033 either will be considerably reduced in intensity or might not materialize at all. The next "swarm" isn't until 2034. If you're going out to watch for meteors, try to find dark skies away from light pollution, and do not forget to bundle up - it can get chilly at night this time of year even in warmer climates!