Weather clears for Leonid meteor shower, how to watch it

ST. GEORGE – Recent stormy skies are clearing across Southern Utah and may allow stargazers to catch a glimpse of the Leonid meteor shower. The shower takes place Nov. 6-30, but peaks Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

The constellation Leo is the radiant point for the Leonid meteor shower | Image courtesy EarthSky.org, St. George News
The constellation Leo is the radiant point for the Leonid meteor shower | Image courtesy EarthSky.org, St. George News

The Leonid meteor shower happens each year in November when Earth passes through debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, according to EarthSky.org. The shower appears to originate from the constellation Leo, although meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky.

Moonlight won’t interfere with visibility of the shower because the waxing moon will have set by evening. Jupiter should also be visible, EarthSky.org states, as it shines in front of the constellation Leo. You may be able to catch meteors on the mornings before and after the peak, as Earth passes directly through the debris stream.

Meteor storm? Not this year

The Leonid shower has occasionally produced meteor storms, according to EarthSky.org, although one is not expected this year.

A Leonid meteor storm can generate more than 100,00 meteors per hour, according to EarthSky.org. This phenomenon was first seen in 1833, and again in 1866 and 1867. In 1966, another Leonid meteor storm occurred during which 40 to 50 meteors per second – 2,400 to 3,000 meteors per minute – were reported in the southwest United states.

Viewing tips

Here are some tips from Nasa.gov to make watching a meteor shower more enjoyable:

  • Get as far away from urban light pollution as possible. Find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.
  • Once you get to your viewing location, search for the darkest patch of sky you can find, as meteors can appear anywhere overhead.
  • Whether viewing from your front porch or a mountaintop, be sure to dress appropriately – wear clothing appropriate for cold overnight temperatures.
  • Bring something comfortable on which to sit or lie down. Plan to be patient and watch for at least half an hour. A reclining chair or pad will make it far more comfortable to keep your gaze on the night sky.
  • Put away the telescope or binoculars. Using either one reduces the amount of sky you can see at one time, and lowers the odds that you’ll see a meteor. Instead, let your eyes relax and don’t look in any one specific spot. Relaxed eyes will quickly catch any movement in the sky, and you’ll be able to spot more meteors. Avoid looking at your cell phone or any other light, as both destroy night vision.

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