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Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend: Ideal viewing conditions in store for millions

By Emma Curtis , AccuWeather staff writer
November 17, 2017, 9:39:23 PM EST

The annual Leonid meteor shower will be visible with clear skies for stargazers across parts of the western, central and southern United States during its peak on Friday night into Saturday morning.

Favorable weather conditions are expected for viewing the meteors streaking across the sky in the coastal areas of the Southeast, the northern Plains and California.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Leonid meteor shower in the Northeast, Great Lakes region, the central Plains or the Pacific Northwest may not be as lucky.

"A large storm system will be moving from the Plains into the Great Lakes, and cloudy skies are forecast to dominate much of the eastern half of the nation," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliot. "Rain and thunderstorms will put an even bigger damper on viewing conditions in many of these areas."

Static Leonid Viewing Map

The shower will produce about 15 meteors per hours on the peak night, between midnight and dawn on Nov. 18. The meteors will be most visible to gazers in the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest rates of meteors expected to be seen in East Asia.

“The Leonid meteors are tied to the comet Tempel-Tuttle. It makes fairly frequent passes through the inner solar system,” said David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather. “This lays out fresh debris in the path of the Earth’s orbit every 33 years.”

Like recent years, this year’s shower will remain a light meteor shower rather than a storm. The most recent Leonid meteor storm was in 2001.

“In 1966, the Leonids produced hundreds of thousands of meteors. The years of enhanced activity have been pretty well calculated in advance,” Samuhel said. “[This year’s shower] will not even rank among the strongest showers of 2017, as only 15 or so meteors per hour are expected.”

2017 Leonid Facts

The shower began on Nov. 5 and will come to a close on Nov. 30, said Samuhel. But most of those nights aren’t very active, so the peak night is the best chance for gazers to catch a glimpse of the meteors.

Samuhel recommends that people dedicate at least an hour to viewing the meteor shower on its peak night.

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“Do not look at any light source during that hour like a phone, flash light, or any type of screen. Your eyes will gradually adjust by a half hour, then you will have perfect night vision,” Samuhel said. “You also want to lay as flat as possible so you can see as much of the sky as possible.”

The next major meteor shower is the Geminids which peaks on the night of Dec. 13 and can produce over 100 meteors an hour.

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