November 17 Meteor Shower?

The annual Leonid meteor shower is gracing the night skies on November 17 and November 18 as it does every November.

The Leonids, and most other meteor showers, happen when Earth plows through a trail of debris left in the wake of a comet orbiting the sun.
Astronomers expect this yearís Leonids to produce at least 20 meteors an hour. The full moon will set several hours before dawn, so its glare wonít interfere with the show.
But I'm hearing the weather might interfere with the meteor shower. Am I going to be able to watch the meteor shower from my backyard?

asked by Washington in Astronomy & Space | 2225 views | 11-17-2010 at 05:23 PM

The weather forecast is pretty discouraging for this November's meteor shower.

The Leonids started out as tiny specks of dust and debris ejected by Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle during its countless voyages orbiting the Sun. As Earth passes through this stream of dust, the particles hit our atmosphere at about 158,000 mph (256,000 km/h), vaporizing due to air friction. This produces the streaks of light in the sky we call meteors.

The Nov. 21 full moon may interfere with meteor spotting until it sets around 3 a.m.

The best time to watch a meteor shower is after midnight; thatís when the Earth is facing into the oncoming bits of gravel and ice, and you see more meteors (like seeing more bugs hitting your carís front windshield than the rear one). The Moon is not quite full, and should be low in the sky after local midnight. Not ideal observing conditions, but not too terrible.

The Leonids have a history of some spectacular "storm" years, with hundreds of meteors per hour as the Earth moves through some especially thick clouds of comet dust. But this is not expected to be one of those years. Counts are likely to be average, around 20 an hour in dark (and clear) locations.

answered by Carmen | 11-17-2010 at 05:25 PM

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