Leonid meteor show in the skies this week
THE Leonid Meteor Shower occurs annually around the middle of November and will give observers the chance to see up to 15 meteors streak across the sky each hour.
Like other meteor showers, it is caused by small rocks and debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Leonids occur as the Earth moves through the dust trail of the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which has was first discovered back in 1866.
In previous years, up to 13 tonnes of dust and rock particles have been deposited in the Earth’s atmosphere during the course of the meteor shower.
As ever, the best chance of seeing the meteors will be to find a spot away from areas of heavy light pollution.
The beauty of meteor showers like the Leonids is that you do not need a telescope or any expensive equipment to enjoy them.
However, if you have a camera set up, you can get some spectacular shots as the metors stream across the sky.
The Leonids occur every November and this year the shower is set to peak on the night of Friday, November 17.
If you can’t make it out for Friday night you’ll still be able to catch some meteors on the night of Thursday, November 16 and Saturday, November 18.
Visibility will be further helped by the fact the new moon won’t be obscuring the meteors with lunar light.
The Leonids occur around the constellation of Leo (low in the morning horizon) but you won’t need to focus on a specific area of the sky in order to see them.
The Leonids are best viewed as far north as possible - so the likes of Scotland, Canada and parts of northern Russia are sometimes cited as the best locations. They can be seen in Northern America, Europe and Asia.
The best thing to do is to get yourself as far away from light pollution as possible.
Perhaps invest in a sleeping bag or reclining chair so you can lie back and watch the sky comfortably. Just remember to wrap up warm.
Northumberland National Park is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, it was awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens.
Sometimes the meteor shower produces a huge amount of activity - known as an ‘outburst’ - but that’s not predicted to happen this year.
In previous years, as many as 50,000 meteors per hour can fall as part of the shower.
However, it’s more likely to be around 15 each hour. Which is why it’s important to get a good viewing spot so you don’t miss any.
The Leonids is caused by the passage of the Earth through a dense cloud of material left by the comet TempelTuttle. It takes its name from the constellation of Leo.
TempleTuttle orbits the sun every 33.3 years and leaves a long trail of dust and rock in its wake.
The friction of passing through the Earth’s atmosphere causes these small traces of rubble (most are the size of a grain of sand) to ignite into tiny burning balls of light called meteors.
If a meteor makes it all the way to the ground intact it becomes a meteorite, although we’re not expecting to see any meteorites as a result of the Leonids this year.