Leonids Meteor Shower Tonight!


November 16, 2009
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James
Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

Don’t miss out on your chance to see the Leonids meteor shower, tonight and early tomorrow morning. It won’t be as strong as the yearly December Geminids or August Perseid meteor showers. However, the Leonids meteor shower could produce as many as 500 meteorites in an hour during its peak, which will be in Tuesday’s early predawn hours.

Perseid Meteor 8.12.09
Creative Commons License photo credit:
aresauburn™

The Leonids will be less frequent and appear weaker this year than at the turn of the century. This is because from 1999 to 2002, the Earth was moving through a clump of debris left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. In those years the Leonids were strong enough to be considered a storm (over 1,000 meteorites per hour).

Now Tempel-Tuttle has receded from the Sun, taking its main debris clumps with it.  Therefore, the Leonid showers aren’t as dramatic anymore, typically averaging only about one every few minutes.  The 2009 Leonids are expected to be stronger than usual, but not nearly as good as at the beginning of the decade.  Although they may be few in number, many Leonid meteors are quite bright.

The meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Leo, which will be high in the east (hence the name of the shower).  You’ll see approximately one meteor every 2 or 3 minutes, or fewer if clouds or city lights are present.


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