Prepare for a dazzling celestial display as the annual Leonid meteor shower takes center stage, promising bright meteors with enduring trails lighting up the night sky. While the Leonids have been active since early November, the shower is anticipated to reach its peak this weekend at 12:33 a.m. ET on Saturday, according to EarthSky. During this peak, sky-gazers may witness an impressive 10 to 15 meteors per hour, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
For those eager to catch a glimpse of these meteors, the timing is fortuitous because the moon will be in its waxing crescent phase. This means there will be less light interference compared to a full moon, enhancing the visibility of the meteor shower. The moon will be at approximately 23% full on the night of the peak, as reported by the American Meteor Society.
While the peak occurs on Saturday, similar rates of meteors can be observed a few days before and after the peak event. The optimal time to view the shower is after midnight in any time zone, as the constellation Leo will be positioned highest in the sky. Leo serves as the radiant for the meteor shower, which is the point from which the phenomenon appears to originate.
Dr. Sharon Morsink, a physics professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, emphasized the importance of escaping light pollution for the best viewing experience. While some meteors can still be seen from within city limits, leaving the city provides a far better opportunity to witness the shower’s full splendor.
Meteor storms, an exceptionally rare and intense occurrence where a shower produces at least 1,000 meteors per hour, are associated with the Leonids. Notably, the Leonids set a record for the highest meteor rate per hour in a meteor stream, with a remarkable 144,000 meteors per hour observed in 1966, according to the American Meteor Society. Although meteor storms are not anticipated this year, there is always a possibility of seeing more meteors than the predicted rate.
As the Leonid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through debris left by the Tempel-Tuttle comet during its orbit around the sun, it offers a unique connection with celestial objects that are billions of years old.
The Leonid meteor shower will continue to grace the night sky until its conclusion on December 2, according to the American Meteor Society. If you’re eager for more celestial spectacles, mark your calendar for the remaining meteor showers of 2023:
- Geminids: December 13-14
- Ursids: December 21-22
Additionally, there are two full moons remaining in 2023, as per the Farmers’ Almanac:
- November 27: Beaver Moon
- December 26: Cold Moon