The best viewing for this year's Leonid meteor shower will be several hours before dawn on November 17, according to the editors of StarDate magazine.
The Moon will be below the horizon, so its light will not wash out any meteors. With clear skies, viewers can expect to see about 15 to 20 meteors per hour, though the shower has proved highly variable in recent years.
A high-resolution graphic depicting the Leonid meteor shower is available online at StarDates Media Center: http://stardate.org/mediacenter. There, you can also sign up to receive advance e-mail notices of future skywatching events.
Though the meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Leo, the lion, they can be seen in all parts of the sky.
Leonid meteors are not physically associated with Leo. They are tiny pieces of comet Tempel-Tuttle. A comet is a often called a "dirty snowball," as it's made up of pieces of rock held together by ice. As a comet orbits the Sun, it heats up and some of the ice is vaporized, releasing bits of rock along the orbit < a debris trail. The Leonid meteors recur each year when Earth passes through comet Tempel-Tuttle's debris trail, and small bits of rock burn up in our planet's atmosphere.
Published bi-monthly by The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, StarDate magazine provides readers with skywatching tips, skymaps, beautiful astronomical photos, astronomy news and features, and a 32-page Sky Almanac each January.
Established in 1932, The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, hosts multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States. McDonald is home to the consortium-run Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest, which will soon be upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. An internationally known leader in astronomy education and outreach, McDonald Observatory is also pioneering the next generation of astronomical research as a founding partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope.
Production and distribution of StarDate Media are made possible by a grant from AEP Texas.