I just read that the Leonids will be visible tonight!
For those of you who are not major nerds like me, the Leonid meteor shower is a remnant from the comet Tempel-Tuttle – apparently way back in the mid 16th century a bunch of dust and ice got free of the nucleus of the Tempel-Tuttle comet, creating a band of essentially “comet garbage” to trail along it. The space.com article on this year’s shower gives a little history on the Leonid shower and its relation to the Tempel-Tuttle comet:
The Leonid meteors are debris shed into space by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which swings through the inner solar system at intervals of 33.25 years, looping around the sun then heading back into the outskirts of the solar system. With each visit the comet leaves behind a trail of dust in its wake.
This cycle’s shower is supposed to be a bit above average – NASA scientists are predicting between 20 and 30 meteors per hour if you’re in the Americas. Asia will have a better show this time, with between 250 and 350 meteors per hour. It’s not gonna last long though, so get your meteor shower watching in around 1am PST (4am EST) for about 3 hours. Let me know how it goes, because I am not gonna make the time!
(you see, I’ll be sleeping)
NASA posted a basic star map on where to look for Leonid streams:
These meteor showers have the potential to be huge – back in the 1830’s, the Leonids provided spectators with reports of meteor frequency of between 100,000 and 300,000 meteors an hour. Can you imagine what that must have looked like?!
If you do stay up to see the Leonids tonight, enjoy the view!