Graphic depicting the Leonid meteor shower. (Stardate)
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Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Early Saturday Morning

By Sally Appert
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 16, 2012 Last Updated: November 18, 2012
Related articles: Science » Space & Astronomy
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Early risers on Saturday may be able to catch the Leonid meteor shower, which is at its best in the predawn hours.

The shower peaks on Saturday, Nov. 17, with 10-20 meteors expected per hour. Some meteors might show up on the surrounding nights, too.

The waxing crescent moon will go down well before midnight, so it won’t obscure the show.

As with all meteor showers, the number of meteors is hard to forecast. The Leonids have been especially unpredictable in recent years, according to the American Astronomical Society.

This year’s Leonids might not come in impressive numbers, but in the past there have been storms of Leonids. This happens whenever Comet Tempel-Tuttle, the source of the meteors, comes close to Earth.

The Earth hits a trail of debris from this comet every November, and when the debris burns up in the atmosphere, we see the Leonids. Every 33 years, the comet passes us and produces hundreds or even thousands of Leonids per hour.

The last time this happened was from 1998 to 2002, when there were many more Leonids than usual each year. In 1966 there were 40 to 50 meteors per second—yes, per second—in the western United States during the peak.

The Leonids have quieted down since 2002, but you might still see a few streaks in the sky this year.

The meteor shower was named after the constellation Leo the Lion, which rises in the east, and is high in the sky before dawn at this time of year. The meteors’ tails all point back to Leo, although they can be spotted anywhere in the sky.

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