If you’re inclined to stay up late, the Leonids Meteor Shower will be streaking across the sky this week. Named because they seem to come from the constellation Leo, this meteor shower boasts about 12 meteors an hour, and will be a beautiful sight for late-night stargazers. Here’s how you can catch the spectacular natural phenomenon.
Move away from city lights
If you live in a city, you may be out of luck. Ambient light makes these meteors almost impossible to detect, but if you’d like to make an event out of the meteor shower, move away from city lights and into a suburb or rural area, where you can see the shooting stars.
Stay up all night
The best viewing times for the Leonids Meteor Shower will be between midnight and sunrise on the mornings of November 17 and 18, although you may be able to catch glimpses of the shower after moonset (about 10 p.m.). Because the strength of the moonlight may make the meteors difficult to see, wait until the moon goes down for the best viewing.
Know where to look
Obviously, the earth is constantly in motion, so you’ll have to remember where to look in the sky, and when to adjust when the spectacle appears to travel across the sky. After sunset, face east and look about a third to halfway up in the sky, and you may be able to see a few streaks. Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., look directly overhead. After 2, look halfway up in the western sky.
Have patience—and hand warmers!
Your eyes take a little while to adjust to darkness. 10 minutes is the minimum time required for us to get our “night vision” but after 45 minutes, we should be able to see best in the dark. So you may be looking for quite a while. If it’s cold in your area, pack a hot drink and maybe some hand warmers.
These annual meteors are very small sand-sized bits of dust and debris falling off the Tempel-Tuttle comet as earth enters its orbit. The bits of dust ignite when they hit our atmosphere, giving the appearance that the stars are falling.
Check your weather forecast
Forecasters are predicting that the East Coast should have “fair” visibility for the meteor shower, while the Southwest will have the best view. Unfortunately, if you live in the Northwest or Central U.S., clouds may obscure the sight.