Get under the shower! The Leonids meteor shower, that is. This dependable event, which peaks around November 17 or 18, is so named because its meteors appear to come from the constellation Leo.
This light show actually comes from 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 grains of sand or smaller, which orbit the Sun. Earth travels through this debris field each year, resulting in the Leonids meteor shower.
Although this shower averages 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour, occasionally it surprises. During meteor storms, which occur about every 33 years, the Leonids are known to roar. In 1966, viewers saw thousands of meteors per minute. In 2001, there were up to 800 per hour. A spectacular display won’t happen again, however, until around 2034; expect a docile turnout this year. Nevertheless, the Leonids 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/or to the southeast for shooting stars. Don’t forget to make a wish (or 10 to 15)!