Leonid Meteor Shower 2010: A Fun, Free Event Coming To A Sky Near You

Libby Kane
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The 2010 Leonid Meteor Shower Is Best Seen In The Early Hours Of November 18.

For all you night owls out there, late-night television isn’t your only entertainment option. This week is the Leonid meteor shower, which is best seen in the earliest hours of tomorrow morning, and between 4am and sunrise…you know, pre-workout.

Star Light, Meteor Bright

Especially living in the city, we don’t see all that many natural wonders (unless you count how our neighbor fits a Great Dane mix into her studio apartment). But this meteor shower requires little more than a set of eyes and a vantage point—it’s the ultimate free entertainment.

Let’s Get Technical

If the attraction for you isn’t so much the general sparkliness of the meteors as the phenomena behind it, here’s a little technical info from Stardate:

Leonid meteors appear to fall from the constellation Leo, the lion, but they are not associated with it. They are leftover debris from comet Tempel-Tuttle. As the comet orbits the Sun, it leaves a trail of debris. The Leonids meteors recur each year when Earth passes through the comet’s debris trail.

Each time comet Tempel-Tuttle gets closest to the Sun in its orbit, called “perihelion,” it sheds a significant amount of material. This creates clumps along its orbit. If Earth passes through one of these clumps this year, viewers could see hundreds of meteors per hour at the shower’s peak. If Earth simply passes through the “normal” part of the comet’s debris trail, the number of meteors visible will be much lower.

Make It An Event

Visibility is best outside the city, but if that’s not an option for you, you won’t be faulted for breaking out the wine anyway, hitting the rooftop, and holding a meteor-viewing party… meteors or not.

Tell us in the comments: Have you ever stayed awake to watch a meteor shower?

Image Credit: New Scientist

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  • CAW

    I watched the leonids from a farm just outside of Charlottesville in the big 1999 shower. It was really cold but I sat on the hood of my car and saw hundreds of them in just a few minutes. It was like the fourth of july, only more divine.

    • StarBright

      That sounds incredible…but I’m not sure I could stay up that late/early!

  • Allpointshelp

    I can’t wait to view the meteor shower tonight. I’ve found a ton of great viewing information on this site: http://www.spacedex.com/leonids/ – I hope everyone enjoys the show!