Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight: Best times to see shooting stars

Tonight and tomorrow morning will give skywatchers their best chance at catching a glimpse of a Leonid meteor.

The peak for the Leonids will be evening of Thursday, Nov. 17 into the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 18. The best time for viewing will be around 6 pm CT Thursday so if you’re brave enough to weather the cold, you could be in for a treat, with Leonids generally providing as many as 20 meteors per hour, according to NASA.

Even better – Leonids are known for being bright colorful and super fast, traveling at a rate of about 44 miles per second, with trails that can linger for several seconds as they streak across the sky, making some visible even in the moonlight.

The Leonids, named for constellation Leo from which it seems to originate, are created by debris left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. It takes comet Tempel-Tuttle 33 years to orbit the sun once. The comet is relatively small – its nucleus measures only 2.24 miles across.

Don’t limit your viewing to just around Constellation Leo, however. It is actually better to view the Leonids away from the radiant: They will appear longer and more spectacular from this perspective. If you do look directly at the radiant, you will find that the meteors will be short — an effect of perspective, NASA said.

It’s best to go somewhere dark to see the meteor shower. City lights and their reflection can camouflage the shooting stars. It will take about 30 minutes for your eyes to get adjusted to the dark so don’t worry if you don’t see them right away.

If you miss out tonight, you may still be able to catch a glimpse of the Leonids. The meteor shower is active until Dec. 2. After that, you can see the Geminids around Dec. 14 and the Ursids around Dec. 22.

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