Editor’s Note: Meteor Shower of September 21, 2015. Click here for great photos of the Leonids.
The Leonids usually peak on the morning of Sept. 21, but the 23rd at the time of this writing is an easy bet as a possible date for shower watchers. If that date holds out it’ll make the shower’s spectacular show the grandest since the best of the 21st century.
Usually the Leonids’ peak coincides with Earth’s passage through a dense cloud of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. While this year is not one of those years, Earth will have lined up perfectly by the midpoint of summer and will have it all to herself.
The Leonids are small enough that their meteors will tend to linger over a period of hours. Thus the shower remains something of a grudge match, which, on this dark winter’s night, is never a bad thing.
If the Leonids peak around midnight after the moon sets, expect to see around one per minute. But the best chance of meteor activity comes in the next few hours before that, during the hour or so before the moon sets at about 11:30 p.m. EST. This is where you will see the best number of meteors per hour.
As with all meteor showers, look at the sky completely at that time for streaks of light. When you first see one meteor, know that it’s likely the first of many. Also, they come in all colors, and a single streak won’t necessarily mean that it’s a meteor. It could be one of the periodic lights in the sky, which appear to get brighter the farther they fly.
The uppermost edge of the Leonid light trail
Top left corner of the upper glow surrounding the Leonid light trail. Top right corner of the Leonid light trail.
But there’s more to the Leonids than the chance to catch a meteor and capture them on camera. The Leonids provide the best meteor shower of any annual in North America. While other major showers, such as the Eta Aquarids, tend to occur in January or February, the Leonids are great starting time to catch the Orionids and the Eta Aquarids, two of the best nighttime meteor showers for northern observers.
Tune in for a great show!
Halley’s Comet hasn’t been visible to the human eye since 1986, so there’s no chance of a trip down to the frontlines for a comet picture this year. But you may be able to catch the action on TV!
Tropical Storm Florence is still affecting Florida and Georgia and is so far further south than a typical near-Earth orbit for Halley.
The odds of viewing the Halley’s Comet comes into play in 2018 if the shadow from the path of Storm Florence passes over the northern Florida area and around the southern portion of the nation.
This would give viewers in the east the best chance of seeing meteors since 2015.
Weather conditions permitting, however, here in the northeast, Meteor Shower 2024 kicks off on the 25th!