Leonids meteor shower approaches; best viewing, meteor party

ST. GEORGE – The Leonids meteor shower returns to liven up the night sky Monday and Tuesday, and Southern Utah residents have the opportunity to attend a special meteor party hosted by the Southern Utah Space Foundation.

According to NASA’s website, this year the Leonids will peak Monday and Tuesday, and prime viewing times are after midnight and in the early morning hours. The hours right before dawn are considered the best; and this year, a waning crescent moon will provide dark enough skies for spectators to view the bright and colorful meteors.

For optimum viewing, find an area well away from city or street lights with a clear view of the sky. Bring a blanket or chair, get comfy and look toward the east.

The Southern Utah Space Foundation is hosting a meteor shower party Monday night at 9:30 p.m. at the Three Peaks Recreation Area, about 10 miles west of Cedar City. Three Peaks is the perfect location, Southern Utah Space Foundation President Leesa Ricci said.

“Three Peaks is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Meteor showers are better to view in dark places, so the middle of nowhere is a great, great place to go,” Ricci said.

At the party, there will be a campfire and marshmallows for toasting. Attendees can bring binoculars, but the foundation will not provide telescopes.

“The best viewing is with the naked eye,” Ricci said.

The Leonids shower, which peaks during mid-November each year, is considered a major shower, though meteor rates are often as low as about 15 meteors per hour. The Leonids are bright meteors and can be colorful. They are also fast, traveling at speeds of 44 miles per second, and are considered to be some of the fastest meteors.

The Leonids meteor shower is known for fireballs and earthgrazer meteors. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material. Earthgrazers are meteors that streak close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails.

Meteors come from leftover comet particles and debris from broken asteroids. While comets orbit around the sun, the dust they emit gradually spreads into a dusty trail around their orbits. Every year, Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with the planet’s atmosphere, where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.

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  • PROTECT THE SHEEP November 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Do I need to worry about a meteor hitting my house?

  • Zion November 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Do they have a permit for that? There might be dancing if it is a party.

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