How to Watch the Leonid Meteor Shower on Thursday

Wednesday, 16 November 2016 - 1:55PM
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 - 1:55PM
How to Watch the Leonid Meteor Shower on Thursday
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The Leonid meteor shower peaks every year in the early morning of November 17, offering stargazers a fantastic opportunity to see a small blizzard of meteors. Named after Leo, the constellation near its radiant point, the Leonids are responsible for some of the most intense meteor showers in history. The meteors in the shower are debris left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, and savvy skywatchers will be able to see them late tonight. 

Who can see it?

Based on the timeframe given for the peak of the shower, those in the central and Western regions of North America have the best chances of spotting the shower. Meteors are visible to the naked eye, so you wont need a telescope to catch a glimpse of this shower. However, visibility is particularly poor this year because bright light from a waning gibbous moon will outshine some of the meteors. As usual, you'll want to get as far away from city lights as possible.

Where to look

Since the radius of the shower is centered around Leo, keep an eye out for the lion-shaped constellation. If you live in North America, Leo can be found high in the southeast sky. 

When to watch it

Though the shower technically lasts from November 15-21, the Leonids will be on their best display early Thursday morning (Nov 17) at around 6 AM EST. Skywatchers will be able to see meteors the whole week, and towards the end of the Leonid shower, only half of the moon will be casting its light into the night sky - giving better visibility to the last of the meteors. 

What you'll see

The meteors in the Leonid shower appear to streak away from within a pattern of stars that resembles a backwards-facing question mark - popularly referred to as the "Sickle" of Leo. Stargazers can expect 10-15 meteors per hour - a modest amount compared to the Perseid meteor shower back in August, but still significant enough to be worth your while. 

If all else fails, watch online

If the moon is ruining your view, don't worry, Slooh Community Observatory will start streaming at 8 p.m. EST tonight. The webcast will feature live meteor feeds from Slooh's observatory in the Canary Islands, as well as "fascinating facts about the annual shower, a look into what causes these regular events, and a harrowing tale of the Greek hero Hercules and his battle with the Nemean Lion."