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The 2022 Leonid meteor shower peaks this week. The best times to see the bright November fireballs.

Just a week after a total lunar eclipse turned November’s full moon a rusty-reddish color, another notable event in the sky is on the way. This time it’s the 2022 Leonid meteor shower, which is expected to peak in the next few days.

Known as one of the best meteor showers of the fall season due to its brilliant fireballs, the Leonids are expected to be at their best from late night Thursday November 17th until the wee hours of November. Friday, November 17. 18, according to astronomy experts. And some say there could be a bigger burst of shooting stars early Saturday morning, November 19.

In an average year, the Leonid Shower typically generates 10-15 meteors per hour in dark areas away from city lights. And in some years this shower has had massive outbreaks of luminous fireballs, numbering in the hundreds.

“While not living up to its historic reputation, it could end up being one of the best astronomical events of the year,” AccuWeather said in a preview of Leonids 2022.

According to AccuWeather, two meteor experts from the American Meteor Society have analyzed when Earth will move through different trails of space debris from a comet known as 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, and they believe our planet could see the biggest explosion of shooting stars. early Saturday morning.

If their analysis is correct, according to AccuWeather, skywatchers “could see between 50 and 200 meteors per hour” for a short period Saturday. (They say the prime window for this big gust could be between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. EST on Saturday.)

Other experts, however, are not convinced the Leonids will put on a spectacular air show this year. But they say it’s still worth watching late Thursday night, early Friday morning, and again late Friday night through early Saturday.

Astronomy website EarthSky agrees that the Leonid meteor shower sometimes performs too well, with a large number of shooting stars. But, “most years the Lion groans rather than roars”.

Experts say the Leonids are already visible in small numbers and will continue to be visible until December 2, but the next few days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) will be the most numerous.

The Leonid meteor shower occurs every November when Earth passes through tiny particles of space debris from a comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. Some years the shower produces a large number of bright fireballs.Shutterstock

When and where to look

First of all. You can see Leonid meteors from almost anywhere, but experts say you’ll increase your chances if you go to a park or open area in a rural location, as far away from bright city lights and streetlights as possible. .

Bring a blanket or lawn chair for extra comfort and bundle up, as temperatures are well below normal in our area this week. And give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the dark sky when looking up.

Thrillist.com says “the best time to see the Leonids will be after midnight and around morning local time” on Friday. “The earlier end of this window may be the best, however, as the last quarter moon will rise after midnight, ‘perhaps obscuring your view of fainter meteors.’

Weather forecast for the Leonid meteor shower

AccuWeather forecasters say that sky conditions would have to be good in the New Jersey area for people to see the Leonid meteor shower. The shower is expected to peak late Thursday evening through early Friday morning, but some experts say another large flurry could occur early Saturday.AccuWeather

As for which part of the sky to look at, Thrillist recommends looking near the constellation Leo, which is the Leonid radiant — the area of ​​the sky where meteors appear to originate from when they shoot out.

“However, do not look directly at the radiant,” the website says. “The meteors will move away from this point. You will see more meteors looking anywhere else in the sky.

Space.com says the Leonids are among the fastest meteors of all major showers, “swirling the sky at 44 miles per second.” Fast speeds like this “tend to produce bright, colorful meteors with hues of white, blue, aquamarine, and even green, which leave long-lasting trails or trains in their wake” , notes the space website.

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Len Melisurgo can be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.

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