The 2020 Leonid meteor shower is active from November 5th through the 30th and will peak during the early morning hours of November 16 and 17.
The 2020 Leonid meteor shower is predicted to produce 10 to 15 meteors per hour this year with the occasional fireball.
Fireballs are larger meteoroids, roughly ranging in size anywhere from a basketball to a Volkswagen. They also make very impressive sky displays as they break into fragments and burn up in their passage through Earth’s atmosphere.
Around 3 hours before sunrise at the viewer’s location, the Leonid meteor shower should be visible from any populated area on Earth with clear dark skies. However, Northern Hemisphere observers will have more favorable viewing because of the radiant’s location in the constellation Leo.
For optimal viewing, find an open sky, lie on the ground, and look straight up into the dark sky. It is important to be far away from artificial lights.
Your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to dark-adapt.
Leonids are made up of bits of debris from the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, this comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its orbital track.
Many of these debris streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit.
Whenever the Earth hits one of these streams, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.
In addition to the Leonid meteor shower, the Taurid meteor shower also occurs from November 5th through December 10th, so skywatchers will be treated to a double meteor shower show in November.
Image Credit: NASA