Every fall, meteors bombard our skies in a symphony of light and speed. It's the Leonid meteor shower, and tonight's your last chance to experience it for twelve long months. Here's how to do it.
The map above, from stardate.org, shows you the the best place to position yourself for prime meteor peeping: your best shot is facing east, towards Leo. Simple enough! But a compass will only get you so far
It's all in the timing, too—prime time for spotting streaking space rocks is the hours between the moon setting and the sun rising, typically from around 3:00 am to 5:15 or so. Check here for the exact time in your area.
And if you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time? You can expect a meteor sighting every four minutes or so, including some that are so brilliantly bright they're called fireballs, and leave a light that can last for minutes after its passing. Like this one, captured by photographer Arne Danielsen back in 1999:
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Of course, your visibility's going to be determined largely by where you live and how clear the skies are. For a better estimate about how much activity will hit your area, check out NASA's amazingly named Fluxtimator, a Java applet that lets you calculate the expected shower rate for a given time and location.
Recommended but not necessary for a successful viewing: a pair of binoculars. A reclining chair. Rations of cheesy snacks. A warm jacket. A healthy appreciation of the incomprehensible size and unceasing wonder of the universe. [Space, Geekosystem; Photo credit: Arne Danielsen]