One of the most famous annual meteor showers is reaching its peak – Leonids. These ultrafast meteors are due to crest tonight and Saturday morning (November 16–17).
Leonides is known for producing some of the most stunning meteor displays in the history of astronomy. The most notable were meteor storms in 1799, 1833 and 1966, when meteor rates of tens of thousands of hours per hour were observed. More recently, in 1999, 2001 and 2002, less Leonid displays “Only” occurred a few thousand meteors per hour.
Unfortunately, those turn-of-century showers gave some skywatchers the impression that they could expect an event similar to the celestial fireworks from Leonids every year. Therefore, it is important to emphasize from the outset that any suggestion of displaying the spectacular meteor Leonid this year, to be taken lightly, is highly optimistic.
Leonid Meteor Shower 2020: When, Where and How to See It
If you’re expecting a memorable sky performance on Tuesday morning, we’re sorry to break it to you: The 2020 version of Leonids is more than likely to disappoint, as the shower will likely be weak and there will likely be long segments when there is a single Will not be seen.
Leonids received his moniker because the shower’s emission point – the location from which the meteor fans exit – is located within Leo, constellation of Leo sign, From within the backward question mark pattern of stars known as “The Sickle”.
The meteors are caused by the comet Temple-Tuttle, which sweeps through the inner solar system every 33.3 years. Every time Comet After passing closest to the sun, it leaves a “river of debris” in its wake – a dense trail of dusty debris. A meteor storm is only possible when the Earth passes directly through a trail of fresh dust, which has been left by comets in the last few centuries.
The lion’s part of the comet dust (no pun intended) can be found behind the template-tuttle and back and forth. The comet was last swept through the internal solar system in 1998. This is why after 1999, 2001 and 2002 saw spectacular meteor showers, followed by decreasing numbers.
In 2016, the Tempel-Tuttle micro-reached, the point of its orbit that is farthest from the Sun — 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion kilometers). Now the comet is going back towards its inner solar system and will be closest Sun In May 2031 again.
related: Leonid meteor shower 10 facts explained
Slim picking in 2020
But it is also in the general vicinity of the comet where the heaviest concentrations of meteorites are found. In contrast, at that point in the comet’s orbit Earth Must have been passing through on Tuesday morning, there is only a scattering of particles, fragments of comet debris that broke into the comet’s frozen nucleus probably a millennium or two ago.
Therefore, 2020 Leonids are expected to show only less activity this year. Mikhail Maslov, a highly regarded Russian expert in meteor shower predictions, A “plateau-like” level of maximum activity forecast, Which he suggests will remain at approximately the same level – around 15 per hour – during the period from 0300 GMT to 2000 GMT. 17 November (10:00 pm–3pm EST. 16–17).
Canadian meteor forecasters Margaret Campbell-Brown and Peter Brown are slightly more optimistic. In 2020, “The Observer’s Handbook of Royal Astronomical Society of Canada” states that the pair suggests rates up to 20 per hour, with a maximum number of 1200 GMT (7 am EST) on 17 November. It comes before or after sunrise in most of North America.
The International Meteor Organization forecasts a rate of 10 to 20 per hour, which is around 1100 GMT (6 pm EST) on 17 November. The moon It is new and will not interfere. But whatever forecasts you trust, keep in mind that even if they are very good, Leonids are expected to dart below your line on average once every 3 to 6 minutes. And assuming that you have a wide-open view of the entire sky and suffer from dark, non-light polluted conditions.
How to observe and see
see a meteor shower Is a relatively simple search. It involves lying back, looking up at the sky and waiting. Keep in mind that any local light pollution or obstructions such as tall trees or buildings will further reduce your chances of creating meteor vision.
Leo does not start coming into view until after midnight, so it would be the best time to concentrate on looking for Leonids. As dawn was scheduled to occur at about 5 am local time, The Sickle would have climbed more than two-thirds of the way directly from the southeast horizon to the upper part (called Anchal).
In addition, because the Leonids are moving in their orbit around the Sun in the opposite direction to the Earth, they bang into our atmosphere almost head-on, resulting in the fastest meteor velocity possible: 45 miles (72 km) per second. Such motion produces bright meteors, which leave long-lived ridges or vapor trains.
A powerful Leonid fireball can be quite spectacular, but such exquisitely bright meteors are likely to be very few and far between this year (if any are seen).
The good news is that, as Comet Temple-Tuttle gets closer to the sun, Leonids are expected to improve gradually. According to Maslov, greater spread of bright meteors is possible, especially in 2022 and 2025. But the truly spectacular Leonid shows won’t start arriving until 2033, when Maslov and another well-known prophet franchisee, Jeremy Wabahilian, estimate the hourly rate. Several hundred or more possible. And the next Leonid cycle’s very good years will probably be in 2034 and 2035.
In 2034, debris shed by Temple-Tuttle from the year 1699 must be carried anywhere from 400 to 1600 Leon per hour, followed by another surge of activity from the material shed by Comet in 1767; 250 to 1000 Leonids are possible per hour. Finally, in 2035, 300 to 900 Leonids are possible with traces of dusty meteorites, dating back to 1633.
But if you can’t wait until then, here’s some good news: A spectacular meteor shower is coming our way in less than a month: December geminids, Which is now considered the best meteor shower of the year, producing over 100 hours per year. He is expected to go to the peak on the night of 13 December. Space.com will provide you with all the details, as we have reached that date. so stay tuned!
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He writes about astronomy, farmers’ almanacs and other publications for the journal Natural History. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and Facebook.