How To Watch The Leonids Meteor Shower Light Up The Sky Tuesday Night
One of the most reliable and colorful meteor showers of the year is set to dazzle the night sky on Tuesday night. The evening's waxing crescent moon will be just dim enough to allow for a dazzling display of some of the fastest meteors around. There are many ways to watch the Leonid meteor shower, from heading out to the great outdoors to catching a solid live stream. Space enthusiast website Slooh is offering a live stream starting at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday that will be broadcast from their Washington Depot, Connecticut, headquarters. The stream features commentary as well as additional information about the meteor shower.
The Leonids are best seen just after moonset around midnight with peak viewing times occurring at 3 a.m. on Tuesday and 3 a.m. on Wednesday. Meteors are predicted to fall at a dizzying 158,000 miles per hour with dozens occurring within an hour's time. Due to their diverse makeup, those falling stars throttling across the skyline tend to look multicolored. Their appearance is enhanced as they burn through the Earth's atmosphere, turning the minuscule meteors red, green, and sometimes even purple. The Leonids get their name from the constellation Leo, which is where meteors appear to originate from making it a great spot to center your gaze on as the meteor shower reaches its height. The Leonids meteor shower is composed of debris from the Comet Tempel-Tuttle, however.
In terms of intensity, the Leonids meteor shower tends to operate on an every 33 years schedule, the last major shower having taken place in 1999. Perhaps the most active Leonid meteor shower ever recorded occurred in 1833 on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 and may have paved the way for initial hypotheses of what exactly meteors are. By observing the ways in which the meteors curved across the night sky, astronomers were able to assert they came from outside the earth's atmosphere and accelerated as they entered.
Paintings and wood carvings of that era depict a sky hyper-saturated with falling stars. Descriptions range from apocalyptic to simply majestic, with astronomy writer Agnes Clarke reporting at the time that "the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm." The next major occurrence is set to take place in 2032, though a particularly active Leonids meteor showers could happen before then as it did in 2001 and 2002. Worried you'll miss this year's evening event? The next major and last meteor shower to occur this year is the Geminids — another highly reliable event that should yield excellent viewing conditions given the phase of the moon.