Leonid Meteor Shower: A Reliable November Event | Almanac.com

Leonid Meteor Shower: A Reliable November Event

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When Is the Next Leonid Meteor Storm?

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In 2024, the Leonid shooting stars peak on the morning of November 18. You might also try watching on the evening of November 17. Learn more about the reliable Leonids. 

The Leonid meteor shower reliably peaks around mid-November each year. They are named because their meteors appear to come from the constellation Leo. This light show actually stems from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. 

As the comet passes close to the Sun during its orbit, some of its particles melt and disintegrate, leaving a trail of debris, mostly the size of sand or smaller grains that orbit the Sun. Earth travels through this debris field yearly, resulting in the Leonid meteor shower.

Leonid meteors illustration
“The November Meteors. As observed between Midnight and 5 A.M. on the Night of November 13–14, 1868.” by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot

Although this shower typically averages 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour, occasionally, it surprises.

Every 33 years, it usually produces a meteor storm, when as many as 50 shooting stars appear every second! That filled the sky in 1833, leading many to believe it was a sign that slavery would soon end. The song “The Stars Fell on Alabama” was inspired by that shower.

Then, another rich Leonid display happened in 1866, but not in 1899 or 1933. So astronomers thought Jupiter’s gravity had perturbed the meteoroid swarm, and Leonid storms were history. But they created 40-per-second fireworks again in 1966 with thousands of meteors per minute, and after that, some hopeful signs appeared in the 90s. So I urged our readers to go out in November of 2001 and have a look, just in case.

And those who did will never forget it. We didn’t have a true storm. But everyone who watched that night, which was cloudless over the entire Northeast, saw seven brilliant, green shooting stars each minute starting at 2 AM. My family huddled in sleeping bags in the meadow behind our house. It was the best shower of our lives, and most meteors even left behind glowing trains that lingered like Cheshire Cat smiles. In 2001, up to 800 per hour fell through the sky.

However, a spectacular display won’t happen again until around 2034; expect a docile turnout this year. Nevertheless, the Leonid meteors are often colorful and travel at one of the fastest speeds of all meteors. Some produce bright fireballs with long trails.

For the best show, choose a site away from city lights and wait until after midnight. Then, set up a lounge chair and look up and to the southeast for shooting stars. Don’t forget to make a wish (or 10 to 15)!

See our complete Meteor Shower Calendar for the year.

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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