Just a week after a total lunar eclipse turned November’s full moon a rusty-reddish hue, another notable celestial event is on its way. This time it’s the 2022 Leonids meteor shower, which will peak in the coming days.
Known as one of the best fall meteor showers due to its bright fireballs, the Leonids are expected to be at their best from late night on Thursday, November 17 to the early morning hours on Friday, November 1. 18, according to astronomy experts. And some say there could be a bigger burst of shooting stars on Saturday morning, November 19.
During an average year, the Leonids shower usually generates 10 to 15 meteors per hour in dark areas away from city lights. And for some years this rainstorm has had huge bursts of bright fireballs, numbering in the hundreds.
“While it may not live up to its historic reputation, it could end up being one of the best astronomy events of the year,” AccuWeather said in a preview of the 2022 Leonids.
AccuWeather says two meteor experts from the American Meteor Society have analyzed the timing of when Earth will move through several trails of space debris from a comet known as 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, and they believe our planet may experience the largest burst of shooting stars. could see early Saturday morning.
If their analysis is correct, AccuWeather says, stargazers could see between 50 and 200 meteors per hour for a short time frame on Saturday. (They say the main window for that big eruption could be between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday.)
However, other experts are not convinced that the Leonids will put on a spectacular air show this year. But they say it’s still worth watching late Thursday night, early Friday morning, and again late Friday night to early Saturday.
The EarthSky astronomy website agrees that the Leonid meteor shower sometimes overperforms, throwing huge numbers of shooting stars. But “in most years the lion wails instead of roars.”
Experts say the Leonids are already visible in small numbers and will remain visible until December 2, but the largest numbers will be seen in the coming days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday).
When and where to watch
First things, first. You can see the Leonid meteors almost anywhere, but experts say you’ll increase your chances if you head to a park or open area in a rural area, as far away from bright city lights and streetlights as possible.
Bring a blanket or a lawn chair for comfort, and wrap up well as temperatures are well below normal in our region this week. And give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the dark sky when you look up.
Thrillist.com says “the best time to see the Leonids will be after midnight and towards morning local time” on Friday. “The earlier end of that window may be best, because the last quarter moon rising after midnight “might obscure your view of fainter meteors.”
Thrillist recommends looking at which part of the sky, look near the constellation Leo, the radiant constellation of the Leonids — the area of the sky where the meteors appear to be coming from when they streak out.
“Don’t look directly at the glowing skin, though,” the website says. “The meteors will move away from that point. You will see more meteors by looking elsewhere in the sky.”
Space.com says the Leonids are among the fastest meteors of any major downpour, “hurling across the sky at 44 miles per second.” Such high velocities “usually produce bright and colorful meteors with shades of white, blue, aquamarine and even green, which leave long-lasting streaks or trains in their wake,” notes the space travel website.
Last full moon of 2022
The last of 2022’s 12 full moons will shine in the night sky on Wednesday, December 7, officially becoming full at 11:08 p.m. Eastern Time.
Its most common nickname is the “cold moon” because it appears when the cold of winter sets in.
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at [email protected].