Leonids! Taurids! Planets!

All right… a couple of people have asked me about the Leonid meteor shower, one of the most famous meteor showers of the year. This shower peaks overnight tomorrow night, Tuesday, into Wednesday. This one happens this time each year as the earth travels through the leftovers from comet Swift-Tuttle. It’s named the Leonids because the meteors seem to be generally in the area around the constellation Leo the lion, but they can show up anywhere in the sky. The interesting thing about these meteors is they’re really fast-moving and streaky. This is very different from the huge, bright, and slow-moving meteors that come from the Taurids, which I talked about a week or two ago.

Things I’ve read have said it won’t really be a big show this time around, but there should still be some meteors to see. Actually, both showers will be competing for your love, so who knows what you’ll see? On top of that, Leo is in the east in the early mornings, which is also where Jupiter, Mars, and Venus are having their coffee and croissant. So, maybe just ignore what I said and give it a shot. Wouldn’t it be something to see slow meteors exploding alongside fast ones with two very bright planets nearby? Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

The best way to go is to head outside late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning, bring a jacket and a folding chair, look up, and give your eyes some time to adjust. You don’t need binoculars or a telescope; your naked eye is the way to go.

If you want to find Leo, it’s most identifiable by looking for the six stars that form sort of a backward question mark-shaped asterism midway up in the eastern sky and mark the head of the lion. The brightest star of the bunch is Regulus, which is one of the brightest stars you can see. It’s actually a multiple star system, at least four crammed into that one little point in the sky, but from 79 light years away, they look like just the one.

Here’s a screen shot if you need a little help. This is what the sky near where I live will look like at about 2:00am Wednesday morning. Good luck, have fun, keep war, and let me know if you see anything.

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The sky looking east toward Leo at around 2am Eastern time Wednesday November 18, 2015 (screen shot from Stellarium)
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