The annual Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak Friday night, with a second display cosmic pyrotechnics expected Saturday night. The debris comes from a remains left behind by the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which passes Earth every 31 years. The minute particles, just half a gram each, burn up in the upper atmospheric layers causing a handsome show to appear.
The meteors will appear in all parts of the sky.
"Viewers in mid-northern latitudes should see around five meteors per hour Friday evening, increasing to around two dozen per hour as dawn approaches". The Leonid shower is expected to produce about 15 meteors per hour when it hits its peak.
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David Samuhel, a meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather, said people should dedicate at least an hour to viewing the meteor shower.
You'll be able to see meteors on nights beyond the 17th as well, as particles from the comet rain into our atmosphere. For context, in 2002 more than 3,000 meteors fell in an hour, reports National Geographic. "It's one reason the Leonids are so famous".
Earth meets these meteors head-on because they are traveling through space in a direction opposite to that of our home planet.
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Discovered in December 1865, Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle has an orbital period of 33 years and the number of meteoroids it spawns (and hence the number of shooting stars seen) grows in intensity when the comet is near perihelion. Find out here and good luck!
An unfortunate circumstance will befall the Leonids in the year 2028. The next "swarm" isn't until 2034. Don't go out too late, though, as pre-dawn twilight can wash out dark skies hours before the sun rises in many locations.
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