With winter fast approaching, there aren’t many weekends left to enjoy the outdoors without a heavy coat and a warm cup of coffee, which is why you should start making plans right now to see the Leonid meteor shower this weekend. In past years, the annual meteor shower has provided some of the most stunning celestial views in history, and although this year’s isn’t expected to be quite as magical, the conditions are perfect for a great view of the event.
As NASA explained earlier this month, the Leonids are expected to peak on the night of Friday, November 17th, with the height of the shower expected at around 3:00 AM the following morning. With a new moon in the sky, watchers should have a clear view as up to 10 meteors are expected to shoot across the sky per hour.
As the stargazers on Space.com explain, the Leonid meteor shower occurs every year in November as a result of the Earth’s orbit crossing the orbit of comet 55R/Tempel-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun every 33 years, leaving a trail of debris which we pick up as we pass by and then falls to our planet’s surface. A vast majority of these so-called comet “crumbs” will burn up in the atmosphere long before they ever reach the surface though.
You might be able to see traces of the celestial storm in from Thursday through the weekend, but Friday night into Saturday morning is your best bet if you want to see meteor dart across the night sky. You don’t need any special equipment to see them either — just find a nice spot outside of town and post up with friends or family.