How to spot Leonid meteors this year

By Jill Disis, CNN • Updated 27th May 2019 How can you help watch for meteors that could potentially reach the Earth’s atmosphere in as little as 15 minutes? Take comfort in the fact…

How to spot Leonid meteors this year

By Jill Disis, CNN • Updated 27th May 2019

How can you help watch for meteors that could potentially reach the Earth’s atmosphere in as little as 15 minutes? Take comfort in the fact that we’re in for a super fantastic show this year.

The Leonids are considered a harbinger of spring, with their sky lights whipping across the sky when the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. They’re responsible for about 80% of all meteors in North America during the year, according to NASA.

The shower is expected to peak on June 11, 12 and 13, with NASA predicting up to 50 meteors per hour. Each shooting star is usually bright and flashy, leaving trails of smoke and sometimes glittering trails of light. The tiny bits of rock that hit our atmosphere can often form fireballs, with light that’s equivalent to a thousand tennis balls per second.

While the Leonids have a high rate of individual meteor explosions, NASA scientist, Bill Cooke, said that they only get a single passing meteor because they stay within the orbit of Mars. “Mars is quite close to the Earth now,” he said. “All you need is a little bit of perturbation in their orbit.”

The meteor shower will have a “dustier” year than usual as the comet 209P/LINEAR is orbiting the sun in a “weaker” manner, Cooke said. Both will stay within our orbit, meaning any debris would be spread out evenly across the night sky. “The Earth passes right over a patch of dust in the sky, giving us half a dozen meteors per hour,” he said.

Last year, Earth passed through a tiny particle about a third of an inch across, Cooke said. And on September 28 and 29, 2017, the dust particle was only about 1/10th of an inch across.

Get ready to see what Cooke calls a “dazzling display.” For stargazers, the Orionid meteor shower also peaks on November 21.

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