The Leonid meteor shower is usually November’s big stargazing event but is being outshone this year by Comet Ison and its dangerous trip around the sun. A full moon on Sunday will also impair viewing, but there are other ways to catch some shooting stars including a live stream, courtesy of NASA.
The Leonids should peak Saturday, but NASA is expecting few visible meteors. According to the space agency, the peak usually brings 10 to 20 meteors per hour and this year’s Leonid event is expected to show about 10 meteors per hour. The shower results when Earth passes through the debris trail left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, notes NASA.
Unlike with other meteor showers, such as the Perseids, Earth is not crossing the main Leonid debris trail, instead encountering a part of the stream that has drifted away from the main trail left behind by the comet’s inner solar system visit, which occurs every 33 years. Bill Cooke, NASA astronomer, said in a statement, “The intensity of the display is less certain, though, because we don't know how much debris is in each stream.” The Leonids are so named as they appear to originate from the constellation Leo.
The meteor shower is easily visible to viewers in the Northern Hemisphere. Simply go to a dark area that’s away from artificial lights, wait for your eyes to adjust and look out for meteors. As noted by EarthSky, the best viewing period is between midnight and dawn with stargazers looking east toward Leo.
For those that can’t escape the city or will be unable to look up at the night sky, NASA will be providing a live stream. Originating from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the live stream will air live Saturday and can be viewed below.