Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Meteor Showers

On the night of November 17-18, you can observe the annual Leonid Meteor Shower.

While in previous years, the Leonids have produced outbursts of thousands of meteors per hour, that is highly unlikely this year. We expect a modest meteor shower. However the Leonids do have a tendency to produce more bright meteors (fireballs) than some other showers.

Usually the best advice for observing meteor showers is to look after midnight. If you live in North America, that isn't the best approach for this year's Leonids. Instead it is best to start looking after it gets dark Monday night (on the 17th).

The number of meteors you will see is difficult to predict. It partly depends on the Leonids themselves, but also on the amount of light pollution and the latitude/longitude of your observing location. Also if it is cloudy that will reduce what you see. As an educated guess, an observer located at a dark site in Europe might see about 15 an hour. An observer at a dark site in North America, might see 10 an hour.

Note that the Leonid Meteor Shower overlaps two weak meteor showers, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. While both are weak, they are each active over a period of about 15 days.

Most the activity of the Leonids occurs on a single day (but weaker activity will occur for a period of about 3 weeks). Basically the entire month is covered by one or more of these showers and all three frequently produce fireballs. Unfortunately predicting when the fireballs will occur is impossible.

To observe a meteor shower, you only need your eyes. No binoculars or telescopes are needed. Make sure you have comfortable clothing, a comfortable chair and be patient. As explained above, the best bet is to observe on the evening of November 17-18, but other nights in November can be expected to produce perhaps 5 an hour and if you are lucky the occasional fireball.

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