Leonids meteor shower: How to watch them

This year's Leonids meteor shower will peak Wednesday morning. The Leonids occur when the Earth crosses paths with Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Fred Thornhill/Reuters/File
A stargazer waits for the Perseid meteor shower to begin near Bobcaygeon, Ontario, August 12, 2015.

Every year in November, skywatchers can enjoy the sights of the Leonids meteor shower. This year, the shower will occur from midnight to dawn on Nov. 18.

This annual shower is named after the constellation Leo, the Lion, as the meteors appear to radiate out from the Lion’s mane. But you don’t have to know your constellations to see the meteors, because they will streak in all directions and will appear all over the sky.

The meteor shower becomes visible when Earth crosses paths with Comet Tempel-Tuttle, according to the science news website EarthSky. “It’s when this comet debris enters Earth’s atmosphere, and vaporizes, that we see the Leonid meteor shower.”

But what makes this shower special is that it’s the fastest encountered on Earth. Comet debris can hit the atmosphere at 158,000 mph, reports ScienceAlert.

Although there won’t be a meteor storm this year, you can still expect to see about 15 meteors an hour. You might also catch a glimpse of Jupiter, which will be illuminated in front of Leo.

Though moonlight won’t obstruct the view, clouds might. AccuWeather predicts about 20 states, mostly in the midwestern US, may not be able to see the shower because of an expected storm system. Southwestern states and those along the East Coast will have the best chance of seeing the meteors.

Good places to watch include state or national parks away from the city lights. But if you aren’t able to get out of the city, highways offer an alternative. Otherwise, try your roof or porch!

But if it’s cold and cloudy and you can’t get away from the city lights, you still have an opportunity to see the shower. Check out Slooh’s live stream of the sky. And in case you miss Wednesday’s show, check the sky Thursday morning as well – you might just see a few stragglers.

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