Leonids Meteor Shower 2021: Watch it peak in the night sky overnight

The last episode of cosmic action in the night sky is the Leonid meteor shower. The month-long event will peak overnight until the earl...


The last episode of cosmic action in the night sky is the Leonid meteor shower. The month-long event will peak overnight until the early hours of Wednesday.

If you’re planning on staying up late for the show, keep in mind that an almost full moon will likely overshadow some of the mouthwatering footage that watchers can easily spot on darker nights.

As the Earth revolves around the sun, it passes through trails of debris spewed out by comets and asteroids. The wandering remains of these trails become meteors when swept up into the planet’s atmosphere, where they burn during their brief descent.

The result: meteor showers, also known as “shooting stars,” which can last from dusk to dawn and dazzle the night sky with rapid streaks of light.

The last event is that of the Leonids, whose meteors originate from matter left in the dusty trail of comet Tempel-Tuttle. It takes about 33 years for the comet to make a full orbit around the sun, venture beyond Jupiter’s orbit, and return to the inner solar system.

Each November, as the Earth sways in the ancient comet trails, meteors splash the atmosphere, drawing uniquely colored trails of light. Tempel-Tuttle’s next close-up visit will take place in May 2031, leaving a new trail of fragments that will bombard Earth’s atmosphere for centuries to come.

But predicting the intensity of the meteor showers produced by the comet from year to year is not easy.

Some Leonid showers become meteor storms, when fragments of comets pass through the Earth’s atmosphere at much higher rates of 1,000 to hundreds of thousands per hour since the comet’s past close visits. Heavenly material for these periods of heightened activity comes from overflights of past decades. During the storms observed in 2001 and 2002, for example, the material mainly came from the neck of the comet in 1766. Mikhail Maslov, a Russian astronomer, predicted the next major burst will take place in 2034, producing up to 500 meteors per hour.

In a more typical year like 2021, downpours produce around 15 visible meteors every hour.

From midnight Tuesday to dawn Wednesday morning are the prime viewing times to see the Leonids in action. NASA recommends putting up a sleeping bag and lying on your back in an open space outside with few obstructions to the night sky, somewhere away from the light pollution of towns and villages.

Keep an eye out for the sky: using binoculars or telescopes will reduce your field of vision.

Meteor showers get their name from the constellations in the night sky from which they seem to spring, and Leonids tend to roam the constellation Leo, a star formation located in the northern celestial hemisphere. Keep an eye close to the constellation Leo, but don’t focus too hard. The brilliant streaks of light can traverse any part of the night sky as celestial debris empties into the atmosphere.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Leonids Meteor Shower 2021: Watch it peak in the night sky overnight
Leonids Meteor Shower 2021: Watch it peak in the night sky overnight
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