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Leonid meteor

What: an annual celestial light show of "shooting stars" or meteors.

When: This year, Leonids peak November 17-18, 2018 with prime viewing just after midnight on the US East Coast.

Where: look up at the constellation Leo rising just below the Big Dipper in the night sky.

The Leonid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that is extremely regular in its timing and can potentially be visible for days in the mid-autumn sky -- depending on weather and location.

And it's no small surprise that the Leonids are named after the constellation Leo, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Leonid meteor shower appears to originate from.

The true source of the Leonid meteor shower is debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle with sand-sized specks entering the earth's atmosphere as the Earth passes through the celestial dust cloud.

In comparison to other annual meteor shows the Leonids - despite their namesake - are more apt to 'meow' than give off a loud roar. Still, they can be spectacular to gaze at especially when the sky is clear and visibility at an optimum.

When and where to look for Leonids 2018

This year's Leonids meteor shower will begin in the late night hours of November 17, but will really reach its peak just after midnight on November 18, 2018 and continue into the early morning hours.

This year, a first quarter moon in mid-November will provide some obstruction to visibility as the Leonids zoom by in the night sky at 15-20 per hour.

Although visible in both hemispheres, Canada and US East Coast residents usually have the best viewing in the southeastern sky. Expect best viewing sometime after midnight on November 18 and peaking between 3:30 and 5:30 am ET.

a single Leonid meteor streaks by in the night
"Brilliant!" say critics. Watch the Leonids peak the night of November 17 - 18.

How to view Leonids

The best place to observe the Leonid meteor shower (or any meteor shower for that matter), is somewhere dark, away from light pollution, and with the moon out of the field of vision. The less light visible, the more brilliant the meteor shower will be.

Telescope or camera?

While mostly viewable to the naked eye, the annual Leonid meteor show may be in any year partially obstructed by the moon, clouds or night mist, so amateur astronomers might want to carry along a pair of binoculars just in case. Even on clear nights, some type of viewing aid may come in handy for catching sight of even the faintest of falling stars, aptly named "telescopic" meteors. On super clear nights, forget the telescope and simply look up.

For photographing the annual event, a digital camera mounted on a tripod helps to steady the images that swiftly move across the sky. A quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of Leonid "prime-time" will also guarantee that you'll catch something! Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.

More about Leonid meteor showers around the Web:

Meteor Showers - Good overview with dates of major meteor showers throughout the year plus general tips for best viewing, including photos and related information.

Leonids - Wikipedia - Extensive background facts and historical information on Leonid sightings through the centuries, with photos and illustrations, related references and resources.

About Meteors - Brief but informative overview of common terms that help identify various sizes and types of meteors.

also see --> Viewing Iceland's Northern Lights

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