Stargazers will have their eyes firmly on the night skies once again this week as the Leonid Meteor Shower is expected to reach its peak, and be at its most visible. The event will give people in the UK a front row seat as the shower shimmers through the sky.
According to the Royal Museum Greenwich, the Leonid meteor shower is associated with the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The radiant of the shower (the point where the meteors seem to stream from) is at the head or ‘sickle’ of the constellation Leo the Lion, hence the name.
The website also says: “As the comet follows its path around the sun, it leaves a path of tiny debris. The cometary debris enters our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second, vaporising and causing the streaks of light we call meteors.”
About every 33 years (the period of Comet Tempel-Tuttle), the Leonids produce meteor ‘storms’ when hundreds or even thousands of shooting stars can be seen. The storms have been seen and documented in the following years: 1799, 1833, 1866, 1966 and 1999-2001 (although the expected 1899 and 1933 storms were disappointing).
So, how can you catch a glimpse of the stunning lights flying across the sky? Here’s everything you need to know.
When is the Leonid Meteor Shower?
The usual limits of the shower are from November 6 to November 30. The Leonid Meteor shower is set to peak this year from November 17 to November 18 between midnight and dawn, and at its peak rate will reach 10 meteors an hour.
The Royal Museum Greenwich describes the shower as ‘fast bright meteors’ with fine trains behind them so keep an eye on the sky for lights of this description. The cometary debris will enter our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second.
How to see Leonid Meteor Shower in the UK
If there are clear conditions you should be able to see the Leonid Meteor Shower from most places in the UK.
You should choose a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution to get the best views of the event. According to Royal Museum Greenwich, the meteors will be visible from all parts of the sky so your best option is choosing a wide space you can scan the night sky from with the naked eye. If you trace the paths that the meteors take, they will appear to originate from the constellation of Leo so you may find most success looking in that direction.