Leonid me­teor show in the skies this week

Hinckley Times - - NEWS -

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.

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