Calling all cosmophiles: Leonid's meteor shower peaks 2018 this weekend.
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With clear skies, there's a good chance you can see a meteor on Saturday and Sunday nights.
According to the American Meteor Society, viewers can expect 10 to 15 meteors per hour during peak times this year: the early hours of Saturday morning and Sunday.
"Earth will pass through the thickest part of the Leonid swarm at 7:00 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) on November 17, "according to Space.com experts. "But the best time to look will be during the hours after midnight on Sunday morning, since the source from which the meteors appear, called Radiant, comes above the horizon for observers in North America."
Dawn is the best time to see the Leonids because viewers will be able to avoid the brightness of a rising moon, which happens before 2 am, experts say. And under ideal conditions of dark sky, the meteors "reach our upper atmosphere at 72 kilometers per second – faster than any other meteor shower."
The meteors are linked to the comet Tempel-Tuttle, discovered by the German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Tempel and the American astronomer Horace P. Tuttle in 1865. Both astronomers discovered the comet independently.
The comet "makes frequent passes through the inner solar system," according to David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and blogger for astronomy at AccuWeather. "This creates new debris in the path of Earth's orbit every 33 years."
As you approach the planet, astronomers revel in explosive showers. In 1833, astronomers reported 72,000 shooting stars per hour, according to National Geographic. Later in 1966, a group of hunters reported having seen 40 to 50 streaks per second for the duration of 15 minutes.
Scientists currently predict the next major explosion will not occur until 2099. But according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year, the comet will be returning to Earth in 2031 and 2064, which means more intense storms are on the horizon. Smaller showers, like what happens this weekend, happen annually.
Although the 2018 showers do not bring hundreds of shooting stars per hour, it will certainly be a delight in areas with clear skies and absence of moonlight.
What is the difference between an meteoroid, a meteor, and a meteorite?
Bill Cooke, chief of NASA's Office of the Environment, told Space.com that a meteoroid is essentially space junk. For example, the "crumbs" left behind from the Halley Comet trail are meteoroids.
These "crumbs" can also be left behind by asteroids, such as the 3200 Phaethon.
Once the meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere, they become meteors (or shooting stars).
Although most meteors disintegrate before reaching the ground, the meteors that hit the surface of the planet are called meteorites, Cooke said.
How to watch the meteor shower
Clear skies are essential for viewing the meteor shower. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized street lights, will block the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so go somewhere far from the city lights.
When you are in the dark, lie on your back with your feet facing south and look at the vast sky. Give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the environment.
Be sure to bring warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or garden chair and leave your telescope at home.
Learn more about the Leonids at space.com.
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