The rapid meteor shower Leonid has its peak this weekend, with a good chance of seeing them in the early hours of Saturday, November 17, and Sunday, November 18. The weather conditions in New Hampshire may only work for the annual show. The forecast for the next hours requires a cloudy overcast sky.
Most experts say the best chance to see the shooting stars was around 3am on Saturday, because the moon will set soon after midnight in most of the world, but early Sunday morning also will work. Leonids usually produce between 10 and 15 meteors per hour. The moon sets at about 12:35 on the east coast. To find the exact time in the moonlight, follow it here.
Meteors can be colored and produce fireballs – which are larger and more luminous meteors that can leave colorful trails. And did we mention that they are fast? They cross the sky at about 44 miles per second, making them among the fastest meteors.
In a few years, Leonid's meteor shower produces explosions, but it is not likely to be one of them, according to Earthsky.org. In a few years, they produce up to 1,000 meteors per hour. The last time this happened was in 2001.
The Leonids, associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle, are named after the constellation Leo the Lion, and come from the stars that make up Leon's mane. And although they radiate from that part of the sky, it is not necessary to locate the constellation. If the weather permits, you can see them from any part of the sky.
But if you want to locate Leo the Lion, look at the eastern horizon. It starts its ascent to the sky after midnight, and when it reaches the highest point, most meteors will be visible.
There are a couple of remaining meteor showers before the calendar turns into 2019.
Geminid meteor shower, which originates from the Gemini constellation, is typically the best of the year, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak on December 13-14. The shower goes from 7 to 17 December, and is produced by wreckage left by the asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1982. The viewing conditions should be excellent because the first quarter of the moon sets in just after midnight, leaving the dark sky. Peak times are in the early hours of the morning, but the Geminids are also active before midnight.
The last meteor shower of the year is small, and is often ignored. The Ursids meteor shower, which runs from December 17 to 25 and peaks between December 21 and 22, produces about 5 to 10 meteors per hour, although occasional outbursts have produced 25 or more per hour. The full moon will wash all but the brightest, however. The Ursids originate from the constellation Ursa Minor and are produced by dust grains left by comet Tuttle discovered in 1790. The best viewing times are after midnight.
(Photo by Bill Ingalls / NASA viaGetty Images)