Every November, a meteor shower boasts its spectacular view as Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. When its debris enters the atmosphere, it vaporizes and showers bright particles called the Leonid meteor shower. As an annual occurrence, it is expected to be seen brightly as the peak of the shower will appear between midnight and dawn on Nov. 18.
The term Leonid was coined because the meteor shower's radiant, or the point in the sky where meteors emerge, lies in the constellation Leo. Fortunately, the shower can be see on both hemispheres but may be more distinct in the Northern hemisphere. Though it may not be as bright as the fireballs which occurred in the last Taurid shower, it can still put on a beautiful view as an average of 15 meteors per hour are expected to be seen.
Stargazers are surely asking where the best place is to witness this month's shower. Experts say that Leonid showers can be seen almost anywhere. However, they recommend watching the shower in areas where the surroundings are dark at night and where there are no city lights which may interfere with the brightness of the meteors. Viewers in the country may find it difficult to look for the best spot to watch on due to rough weather conditions.
"A large storm system is expected to encompass most of the United States in cloud cover for the middle of the week," said Dave Samuhel, AccuWeather Meteorologist.
Residents from the areas like Ohio, Mississippi and the Northwest will be under poor viewing conditions. Meanwhile, good viewing conditions will be experienced in areas like Southern California because of clear skies. For viewers expecting a cloudy sky or bad weather on the said date, a live broadcast of the meteor shower will be available via Slooh starting at 8:00 p.m. EST on Nov. 17.
The Leonid shower is famous for producing meteor storms. However, it is not expected to happen this year. Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle completes a single orbit around the sun once in approximately 33 years. In 1833, Noth America witnessed one of the biggest meteor storms with as much as 100,000 meteors every hour during the whole show. In 1866 and 1867, another meteor storm occurred.
Every 33 years after that, no meteor storms emerged until 1966 when the Leonid meteor storm produced 40 to 50 meteors per second. Fortunately, there is no need for any special equipment to witness the spectacular meteor shower.
Photo : Ed Sweeney | Flickr