This week, we will be treated to a spectacular viewing of the Leonid Meteor Shower.
Adding to the intensity of the display will be the dark autumn nights.
Go outside any night for the next week, and look skyward to the south-east, toward the constellation of Leo, the Lion.
The meteor shower will experience peak activity on the night of Tuesday 17 November. That night, the moon will set around ten o’clock, so after that, the skies will be dark, just as Leo is rising in the east. The early morning of Wednesday 18 November will be the best time to see the most meteors, as the region will have climbed higher into the sky with the rotation of the Earth.
The Leonids strike the atmosphere at a higher rate of speed than meteors associated with other showers. Coming in at nearly 160,000 miles an hour, the icy particles of rock and dust will burn up, creating brilliant fireballs. You can expect to see about 15 brilliant ones an hour, during peak activity.
So bundle up and go out to enjoy one of the greatest meteor displays to which we will be treated this season. If it’s cloudy on the peak morning, dread not, for the shower will continue with high activity for more than a week following the peak, with plenty of secondary opportunities to view the spectacle.
It has now been almost four months since New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, exploring the tiny planetary system as it passed. Last week, it was redirected toward its new target, a smaller object in The Kuiper Belt. So distant is the next object, that it will take three more years to get there. The small craft is already 128,750,000 miles beyond Pluto, now headed for its new destination.
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William J. Bechaver is the Director of SPACE – Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts [SPACE], the premier Astronomical Society in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.