Watch the Leonids!

By Phil Plait | November 16, 2009 12:00 pm

The annual Leonid meteor shower peaks this year on or around Tuesday night. It’s a slow-peaking shower, so even if you go out tonight, or later than Tuesday, you’ll probably see a few meteors streaking across the sky.

I’ve written about them many times in the past; a review is on my Bad Astronomy site, and I wrote a guide to watching the Perseids which is still apropos of the Leonids. NASA’s science news page has lots of info, and the International Meteor Organization has technical aspects, too.

Leonids over Uluru image courtesy Vic and Jen Winter at ICSTARS.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: Leonids, meteors

Comments (21)

  1. Trebuchet

    It’s November here in the Puget Sound country. What is this “sky” of which you speak?

  2. I was wondering when you were going to post about these.

  3. And don’t gorget the Gemenids (sp) in December. Can’t hurt to plan ahead. :)

  4. Caleb


    I had the same thought. Weather isn’t looking good. :-(

  5. DennyMo

    I’m confused: “everything” I’ve read says the peak time to see them in the US will be 3-5am Tuesday, but BA is saying Tuesday evening. Can someone help unconfuse me? Thanks.

  6. I am confused as well. I read that the optimal time for the Pacific west coast would be between 11pm and 4 am starting tonight.

  7. dragonet2

    Wheep, we’re socked in here in KC too. No sky viewing for the next several days… hell I’d just like to see the sun.

  8. StevoR

    Great photo of (I presume the Leonid) meteors over Uluru there BA – Thanks! 😀

    Will you be watching* & what do you think the odds of a decent shower are this year?

    * I’ll be getting up for an early morning pre-dawn start to the day in the hope of spotting a few of these shooting stars – also it’ll be much cooler at that time of day – forecast 34 degrees Celscius today and 41 degrees C by Thursday here in Adelaide South Oz. Get up, see Leonids, water garden, walk the dog (my own & also for work), go back to bed & try to sleep during hottest part of the day sounds like the plan.

  9. Wendy

    Lmao @ Trebuchet…. My (Vancouverite) thoughts exactly!

  10. StevoR

    @ 7. dragonet2 Says:

    Wheep, we’re socked in here in KC too. No sky viewing for the next several days… hell I’d just like to see the sun.

    I wish we couldn’t see our Sun right now. Its far too hot and a few thick clouds at the right time – like during the day esp. around noon – would be very welcome. Rain would be even more so.

    Adelaide has just had 8 days of heatwave (first ever in November) then yesterday a cool 30 & today 34 is forecast and later this week over 40 degrees celcius far over the 100 Fahrenheit mark.

    Mind you this is for the Adelaide hills – out bush in the Riverland region of my state its been 44 degrees according to another South Aussie on another recent thread.

    Ah if only our Sun was more like Tau Ceti (G8 V) or Alpha Centauri B (K1 V) or Epsilon Eridani (K2 V) instead … 😉


    NB. For those few who don’t already know V = a normal dwarf or main sequence star and the spectral class numbers run from G0 at hottest &most massive to G9 for coolest and leas massive within a spectral class. Our Sun is a G2 V star so all the stars mentioned are quite a bit cooler and less massive and luminous than our Sun. Which would be nicer for us right now! Probably belabouring the obvious here -my apologies if so.

  11. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 3. Larian LeQuella Says:

    And don’t gorget the Gemenids (sp) in December. Can’t hurt to plan ahead.

    I think its spelt Geminids.

    Gemini is the constellation the Bayer (Greek letter) star name form is Geminorum eg. Pollux is Beta Geminorum & the abbriev.* form is Gem eg. Castor = Alpha Gem.

    Thanks for reminding me of them too! :-)

    PS. See : for more.

  12. Russ

    Damn clouds again. It was cloudy for the perseids as well. This sucks :(

  13. Melanie (Australia)

    StevoR – The air is a ‘cold’ 30C today! Back to the furnace Wednesday.

    Riverland SA

  14. Yeebok

    I’m just gonna go outside for a tad .. once I consult Stellarium :)

    Edit:Darn it doesn’t rise here until 2.30 am or so. Anyway won’t stop me if I am up.

  15. markogts

    Quoting Trebuchet. Fog here allows me to see only meteorites, no meteors.

  16. James H.

    How cool is Big Bang Theory? They were out watching (sort of) this meteor shower in the episode last night. Great timing.

  17. DaveS

    BBT: I remember wondering what they were doing with a reflecting telescope at a meteor shower. But I guess if they were waiting for the wee hours, they needed something (other than funny cookies) to entertain them.

    Here in Boulder, I doubt if I’ll get out. Between having a 4yo daughter sleeping in her bed, too much light pollution in my yard, and having nighttime temperatures well below freezing, I seriously doubt if I’ll catch this one. That was a nice thing about being childless in San Diego, years ago. It was really great driving into Anza-Borrego Desert and just lying in lounges in the darkness, in sweater temperatures, watching the sky. One time we fell asleep, only to wake as the sun was coming up, so we drove back into town and went to work.

  18. Perth skies are great! Very clear… unless something is due to happen, in which case you can put money on the fact it’ll be totally overcast :(

    It was.

  19. StevoR

    Got up pre-dawn this morning – but it was overcast so no joy with spotting any Leonids. :-(
    I’ll try again tomorrow after all they say its still reasonably good a few nights either side of the maximum don’t they?

    This year incidentally marks the 210th anniversary of the very first spectacular Leonid meteor storm which occurred in 1799.

    Also meteor showers online has a ggood webpage on them :

    @ 13. Melanie (Australia) Says:

    StevoR – The air is a ‘cold’ 30C today! Back to the furnace Wednesday.
    – Melanie

    Thanks. :-)

    Hope its cooler for you too today – here the temperature is “only” 36 or so now and 39 forecast versus 41 forecast for today. (& still for Thurs.) Catastrophic fire level tomorrow as well. Scary esp. after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfire.

    BTW. If you don’t mind me asking, are you on facebook?

  20. dark skies, under 0C, already saw a couple of good ones. One went diagonally between Castor and Pollux in Gemini around ten pm local time. Just saw a couple of real fire balls in Taurus. I will probably be out at least one more time tonight.

  21. Flying sardines

    Is anyone here doing any astrophotography of them this year? I sure hope so!

    BA – Have you been out watching them & had any luck?


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