COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The Leonid meteor shower peaks every year during mid-November and is considered to be a major shower, according to NASA. This year, it will peak in the early hours of Friday, Nov. 18.
The shower is created by space debris left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle. When the debris collides with Earth’s atmosphere, it disintegrates, creating bright streaks in the sky. Leonids travel 44 miles per second.
Dr. Shawn Cruzen, a professor of astronomy at Columbus State University and the executive director of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, shared tips for viewing the shower.
He said it’s always best to observe meteor showers after midnight. More meteors will be visible at that time.
Cruzen recommended getting away from city lights. The darker the location, the better. People who stay around city lights will still be able to view the shower, but they’ll only see the brightest meteors.
“So good places to go might be F.D.R. State Park, Providence Canyon or just outside the city limits if you can possibly get there,” he said.
Cruzen recommended lying on a blanket.
“If you lie on the ground rather than trying to stand and look up, if you’re laying horizontally, you’ll see more of the sky,” he said. “You won’t get a neck ache.”
NASA notes that it’s a good idea to come prepared for winter temperatures.
In the past, the Leonids have produced what is called a meteor storm, meaning thousands of meteors were visible per hour. This year’s meteor shower won’t be a meteor storm, however.
“I’ve seen one of these, and it just looks like snow. It was just incredible,” Cruzen said. “That’s been a number of years ago, and it’s not expected to do that at this time.”
The peak activity meteor count for this shower is expected to be about 15 meteors per hour.
NASA says that viewers shouldn’t only look at the constellation of Leo to view the Leonids, as they’ll be visible across the night sky. It says that meteors will look more impressive if viewed away from the radiant.
Comet Tempel-Tuttle completes one orbit around the sun every 33 years.