November 18, 2010

If the forecast is for clear skies tonight, set your clock for about 4:30 am Friday morning, grab a blanket and head outside to see this year’s Leonid meteor shower. Once the moon has set (early in the morning - click here to check the time for the moonset where you live), you may see as many as 20 or 30 meteors streaking through the sky before sunrise. They are still there after the sun rises, of course, but you won’t see them because of the brightness of the sunlight.

Look east, near the constellation Leo (that’s why they are called "Leonids").   

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in mid-November, because that is when the comet Tempel-Tuttle passes near our orbit on its regular trip through the solar system. Debris from its tail - gasses and dust - burns up when it enters our atmosphere, becoming flares in the night sky that we call meteors.

Here’s a tip from an experienced sky watcher. Either take a blanket and lie on the grass, or take a lawn chair that tips back. Otherwise, you’ll get a terrible stiff neck, which doesn’t make meteor viewing much fun at all!

Kids (and adults) who want to know more should go to, where they have a web page with the Top 10 Leonid Meteor Facts.

Happy meteor watching!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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