The Leonids meteor shower is set to appear in the night sky tonight.
The Leonids will peak late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. It is best viewed around midnight Saturday night (Nov. 16).
According to NASA, the Leonids are considered to be a major shower though rates are often as low as 15 meteors per hour. The high status comes from the quality of the meteors, which are bright and can also be colorful. They are also fast – Leonids travel at speeds of 44 mile per second and are considered to be among the fastest meteors.
Leonids also has a history of fireballs and earthgrazer meteors. Fireballs are larger bright explosions of light and color that appear in the sky longer than an average meteor streak. Earthgrazers are meteors that streak close to the horizon and are known for their long and colorful tails.
While this year’s shower is expected to be fairly typical, Leonids has a history of putting on quite a show. Every 33 years or so, viewers on Earth can experience a Leonid storm – defined as having at least 1,000 meteors per hour – that can peak with hundreds to thousands of meteors seen per hour depending on the location of the observer, NASA explained.
The last Leonid meteor storm took place in 2002.
NASA’s viewing tips:
The Leonids are best viewed starting at about midnight local time.
Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared for winter temperatures with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Orient yourself with your feet towards east, lie flat on your back, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.