an annual celestial light show of "shooting
stars" or meteors.
When: This year, they peak
November 17-18, 2017 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 its 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 2017
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, 2017 and continue into the early morning hours.
This year, the skies will be completely dark -- with no competition from moonlight to obstruct 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.
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?
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
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.