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    The Leonid Meteor Shower

    November 16, 2011; 11:28 PM ET

    Much like the last meteor shower of about a week ago, the Taurids, the moon will make it hard to see the Leonids that peak Thursday night and Friday morning.

    On average, there will be about 10-15 meteors every hour overnight. The Leonids seem to run on a cycle of the shower being very active every 33 to 34 years or so. A very famous Leonid meteor shower occurred in 1966, when observers said the meteors looked like rain falling from the sky. The next peak in the cycle in 1999/2000 was not nearly as active.

    The meteor shower will peak after midnight. This is common with all meteor showers because the part of Earth you're standing on has turned so that you face head-on into the incoming stream of space debris which is, of course, what you see as "shooting stars" as they enter our atmosphere.

    Some facts about the Leonid meteor shower:

    --Caused by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

    --Well known for having bright meteors or fireballs which may be 9 mm across, weigh 85 grams and have as much kinetic energy as a car hitting at 60 mph.

    --May deposit 12 or 13 tons of debris across the entire planet in a year.

    --Are famous because their meteor showers can be, and have been in a few cases, among the most spectacular of any meteor events.

    --The meteor storm of 1833 was truly spectacular. One estimate was over one hundred thousand meteors an hour, and another estimated in excess of two hundred thousand meteors an hour over the entire region of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. It was marked by the Native Americans, Harriet Tubman and others. Near Independence, Mo., it was taken as a sign to push the growing Mormon community out of the area. The leader of the Mormon community, Joseph Smith, noted in his journal that this event was a literal fulfillment of the word of God and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is close at hand.

    --The meteoroids from the 1733 passage of Tempel-Tuttle resulted in the 1866 storm, and the 1966 storm was from the 1899 passage of the comet. The double spikes in Leonid activity in 2001 and in 2002 were due to the passage of the comet's dust ejected in 1767 and 1866.

    Please see the skymap below to help you view this meteor shower. Most of the meteors will originate from the constellation Leo the Lion, but not all of them. Some meteors will be visible basically anywhere in the sky.

    This space map below is courtesy of a favorite astronomy site of mine, EarthSky.org. This site is downright terrific and was the inspiration for this blog, and has graciously allowed me to use many skymaps in previous blogs. This site is an absolutely fantastic source for all sorts of information about the field of science in general.

    Please join in on the conversations about astronomy by clicking here. You can leave your comments there, as well as be part of a community where discussions on this or any other astronomy subject take place. We are now approaching 2,200 likes. Tell your friends about this site and blog, then weigh in on some exciting issues. We encourage open discussion and will never criticize any idea, and no negative conversation will be allowed.

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    A famous depiction of the 1833 Leonid meteor shower, produced in 1889 for the Seventh-Day Adventist book Bible Readings for the Home Circle

    The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com


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