Leonid meteors tonight!

By Phil Plait | November 17, 2010 8:58 am

icstars_leonids_uluruThe Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight!

This is a relatively nice shower to watch. There are usually 20 – 30 meteors per hour, so you’ll see one every few minutes. Sometimes — though rarely — it can peak at much higher rates, but I don’t think anything like that is predicted this year.

Watching a meteor shower is actually pretty easy. All you need is a big view of the open, dark sky — the fewer trees, buildings and lights the better — and something comfortable to relax on like a beach chair (the kind that opens up so you can lie on it). The best time to watch is after midnight; that’s when the Earth is facing into the oncoming bits of gravel and ice, and you see more meteors (like seeing more bugs hitting your car’s front windshield than the rear one). The Moon is not quite full, and should be low in the sky after local midnight. Not ideal observing conditions, but not too terrible.

If you want details, I wrote an article on 12 things you need to watch a meteor shower. It was written for the 2007 Perseids in August, but it still applies. Just dress warmly!

Also, the folks at the UK’s Sky at Night magazine put together a nice informational video about the Leonids and meteor showers (it’s from last year, but still relevant):

That’s it! Happy meteor hunting!

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

Related posts:

Watch the Leonids!
Will the Leonids roar in 2009?
12 things you need to watch the Perseid meteors Sunday night

MORE ABOUT: Leonids, meteor shower

Comments (21)

  1. TSFrost

    Beach chair? Bah! I love watching meteor showers from the comfort and warmth of my hot tub. :)

  2. Jeff

    I watched the Perseids in the Florida Keys about midnight about a year ago. It is very dark, but mosquito infested. I counted 60 meteors in my sitting, some duds, some really bright bolides.

    I havn’t seen the Leonids because I live nearer to Ft. Lauderdale with a lot of city lights. The only time I saw the Andromeda Galaxy here was after hurricane Wilma, which dosed the city lights, and oh boy, was it great without all that man made pollution!

  3. Old Muley

    Looks like I’m gonna get skunked again this year. The forecast here in Titletown is for clouds and a chance of rain until tomorrow (11/18) morning.

  4. Naomi

    Not really on-topic, but Phil, there’s an article here you might find interesting – http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/mp/8340141/scientists-needed-more-than-ever-says-pm/ Regarding a new science education program in Australia.

    Just… don’t read the comments. Yahoo News commentors are… not the brightest.

  5. Kevin

    When you say midnight, I assume it’s meant to be local time? Is there some website to check where they can be seen from and what times?
    If what is meant is midnight regardless of location, then how do the physics of that work?

  6. Michel

    Yesterday was a very nice clear night.
    Nice views of the Moon and Jupiter.
    So tonight, with something more special to see, it´s clouded. Till saterday night.
    Tomorrow I´m gonna buy me some clear weather bracelets!
    With potent holograms. Maybe that will teach those weather gods a lesson.
    “(the kind that opens up so you can lie on it)”
    *drags his wife on the veranda*
    I like your good advice.

  7. Sandy

    I can’t wait to view the meteor shower tonight. I’ve found a ton of great viewing information on this site: http://www.spacedex.com/leonids/ – I hope everyone enjoys the show!

  8. Ryan
  9. Guess the weather here in Italy… :-$

  10. Jeff

    9. I know my wife was in Italy last Oct-Nov. and it varied from warm and sunny to cool and wet with the passage of a cold front. If you just got a cold front, it’s probably cloudy.

    Still, your Mediterrean weather is fantastic overall. I like it better than here in Florida because here it is too tropical.

  11. John

    I’ll second the motion on the hot tub. Even better for northern lights.

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Cloudy here, alas. Last few nights and morns. Plus a fairly large amount of moonlight & plenty of trees and other objects blocking the horizon to say nothing of the whopping, horrid streetlight that’s right outside my door. Sigh. :-(

    I’ll see how it goes tomorrow morn perhaps but I’m not expecting much this time.

  13. Neil Haggath

    #5 Kevin:
    It means midnight local time. Regardless of your location, you’re likely to see more meteors in the morning, after local midnight, because then you’re on the leading side of the Earth. Before local midnight, you’re on the trailing side. See Phil’s analogy about bugs on your windscreen.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    Another website that I think is pretty good is the meteor showers online one :


    with their page on the Leonids here :


    Also remember folks that the nights / mornings on either side of the meteor shower peak can sometimes be pretty great as well. :-)

    So it still might not be too late leonids~wise tonight /’morrow – That’s certainly what I’m hoping anyway. 😉

  15. Thomas Beck

    Last Friday and Saturday around 4 pm EST, while driving towards Philadelphia, I saw what had to be meteors in the sky a little bit to the north of due West. They looked at first like contrails in the blue sky, but there were so many of them! At least 4 or 5 at a time, all plunging downward. I saw them Friday between 4 and 5 p.m., and then again in the exact same place at the exact same time on Saturday. They couldn’t have been jet trails because there were so many of them, in the same place, at the same time of day on two successive days. Were those the Leonids? Or, if not, what were they? Thanks!

  16. Sam H

    Unfortunately there’ll be no stargazing for me for the foreseeable future – you won’t believe the snow up here in Calgary. At least I found a place almost 100 km south of the city that I and Sadie (8-inch dob) went to in August – ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!! We saw the nebulae in Sagittarius, M81 and M82, Andromeda and Triangulum (galaxies!), M13, Jupiter – and more :) !! Only thing I didn’t find was the Bubble Nebula…
    Can’t wait for the snow to settle (and school to end!)

  17. Chelsea

    So I hauled myself out of my nice warm comfy bed at 3:30 a.m., got bundled up, and headed out with camera and tripod. Watched the setting moon and was thankful for clear skies and mild weather. And waited. And waited. And for my hour and a half of standing out there taking long exposures and hoping, all I saw were about 4 little pffft!s, winkly little piddly meteors that I would have missed had I blinked. The predictions of this year’s Leonid shower being a poor showing were understated, this was the non-event of the season. Let’s hope the Geminids put on a better show!

  18. J Earley

    Here in Oregon, there is fog, rain or snow right now, depending on location. Bummer.

  19. QuietDesperation

    Must they schedule these things on work nights? Sheesh!


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