The Leonid meteor shower will reach its peak Monday night and Tuesday morning. Now, South Sound astronomers just need the clouds to cooperate.
This fall meteor shower is created as the Earth moves through dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from Nov. 6-30.
This year, astronomers are predicting the Leonids to be a rather modest shower, producing 10-15 meteors per hour.
The meteors will seem to come from the constellation Leo the Lion, resulting in the shower’s name. But people hoping to see the shower should find a large open area as far from lights as possible.
Laying on a blanket or a reclining lawn chair might be the best, most comfortable viewing position.
One unique aspect of the Leonids is that the shower has a cyclical peak. About every 33 years, as the comet races through the inner solar system and rounds the sun, it releases fresh material. That can result in hundreds of meteors seen per hour. The last time this happened was in 2001.
Back in 1966, the Leonids produced one of the greatest meteor showers in history. During one 15-minute block, there were thousands of meteors per minute.
In 2002, Mike Jones of Shelton wrote to NASA about his memories of the 1996 meteor storm. He was attending the Army’s primary flight school at Fort Wolters near Mineral Wells, Texas, when the storm took place.
“As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I noticed meteors streaking down atan alarming rate. … The rate picked up very rapidly and soon we were seeing dozens of meteors every second,” he wrote. “The effect was similar to watching snowflakes race at your windshield while driving in a snowstorm! Very intense.”
According to records, the meteor storm in 1833 produced more than 100,000 meteors per hour.
Jones’ account and others, as well as photos, can be found at leonid.arc.nasa.gov/