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Here's Why You Don't Want To Miss The Leonid Meteor Shower

Editor of Astronomy Magazine Michael E. Bakich tells listeners some fascinating facts about the upcoming Leonid meteor showers, scheduled to peak November 17-18 in 2015.

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"It's better to view meteor showers after midnight, because that's when your part of Earth is literally running into these tiny bits of rock and metal."

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Getty Images Ethan Miller
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

As you mentioned, there are some commentary debris falling out of the sky. The Leonid meteor shower is active all month, and it peaks the night of the seventeenth, and the early morning hours of the eighteenth. And as we mentioned many times before, it's better to view meteor showers after midnight, because that's when your part of Earth is literally running into these tiny bits of rock and metal. The moon is in a good position for this because it's a waxing crescent, a growing crescent moon. It sets around ten pm local time. - Oh good - Yes, so, you know if you're going to go out after the midnight, the moon won't even be a consideration. The maximum for this meteor shower is somewhere between fifteen and twenty per hour, which isn't bad. That's about one every three to four minutes. Plus, you know, a few sporadics sprinkled in. The Leonid is kind of cool because these meteor's are the fastest of any shower. When they encounter its' atmosphere, they're traveling at nearly 160 thousand miles per hour. So, they're really smoking. And I use that word specifically because these meteors are so fast, there's a higher percentage of fire balls from this shower than any other. Okay, so, it may not be as numerous a meteor count as the Perseid say in August, but you'll see a higher percentage of fire balls.  And a fire ball, well, there's two definitions. A fire ball either is a meteor as bright a Venus, or a meteor bright enough to cast a shadow. So the Leonid meteors, if you have a free evening, or a morning, the morning of the eighteenth, it might be good to set up a lunch here and watch a few shooting stars.