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Dark Skies for Leonids Metoer Shower

16 Nov 2012, 2:03 pm

Meteor Shower This Weekend

The Leonid meteor shower may be visible in your area this weekend.  Here are some of the details:

While this year probably won’t go down in the history books for a record number of meteors, as long as the skies are clear, chances are you may see a few.  The key will be getting away from city lights, lying on your back as you stare up towards the night sky, and doing all of this just after midnight until the predawn hours tomorrow morning.

In a few prior years, even dating back to the 1800s, the meteors have been much more prevalent and it has been called a storm rather than a shower.

 The picture above from www.earthsky.org was an artists depiction of one of those meteor storms in 1833.  During another meteor storm back in 1966, it was estimated that the meteors were flying in at a rate of 40 to 50 per second!  A few other interesting tidbits about past occurrences of the Leonid meteor shower:

Skies Darken for Optimal Viewing

The moon is a thin, waxing crescent meaning a minimal amount of light will be reflecting off of it and it will be setting before the best viewing time.  This will keep the skies dark for optimal view conditions.

From: http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases.phtml

From NASA:  “The moon will be a waxing crescent setting before midnight, clearing the way for some unobstructed Leonid viewing. “We’re predicting a normal year of 15 to 20 meteors per hour” says Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. Many of these streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.”

Cloud Cover

Even with the best intentions to stay up late, it will all be for nothing if there is cloud cover. Around midnight tonight, most the eastern two thirds of the country will be clear and dry while the western US will be under an abundance of cloud cover.

With clear skies through the overnight hours, temperatures will plummet. Lots of extra layers will be appreciated for late night star gazing as temperatures across the northern and central US plunge into the 20s and 30s.

Have a great Friday!

Gretchen Mishek

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