The Leonids meteor shower will peak soon in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. For best viewing, dress warmly, head out after midnight, and lay back watching the sky directly overhead. Failing that, you can always watch these space agency livestreams from the comfort of your home.
Top image: An apparent fireball seen November 17, 2014 in Charlottetown, N.L. Image credit: Blanche Ward via CBC
The Leonids are bits of dust and debris left over from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet passes through our solar system every 33 years, each time leaving behind a trail of dusty debris. Our planet passes through these trails each November, producing a meteor shower as the dust collides with and burns up in our atmosphere. They earn their name from their apparent location: from our terrestrial perspective, the meteorites appear to be emanating from the constellation Leo.
A Leonid meteor seen through a telescope. Image credit: NASA
While all it takes to watch the meteor shower is a bit of dark sky and some patience, you can check out the event even if your skies are decidedly uncooperative. You can watch the meteor shower online at a these sites:
- Marshall Space Flight Center telescope live feed
- ASGARD, part of the NASA fireball tracking network, has near-realtime radar and telescope views.
- Near-realtime radio captured by the SPAMD network in the UK measuring meteor shower intensity.
If you see a fireball like the one pictured overhead, please fill out a fireball report with as many details as you can. Your reports will help contributes our general knowledge about meteors, but it will also help alert researchers to scientifically important events.
Be sure to share any photographs you take of the meteor shower!