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Be showered by Meteors

Lazaro Aleman: Greene Publishing, Inc.

If you haven’t yet caught sight of the Leonid meteor shower, you still have a chance to catch a glimpse of this spectacular show this weekend; if you’re willing to stay up past midnight, that is.

Word from astronomers is that the Leonid, a meteor shower that occurs annually in November, will peak this Friday night and Saturday morning, Nov. 17-18. The best time to watch the meteors streaking across the night sky, they say, is Friday around midnight.

The good news is that favorable weather conditions for viewing are expected for the Southeast, including North Florida.

The reason that the shower is called the Leonid, according to the experts, is because its radiant, or the point in the sky from where it appears to emerge, lies in the Leo constellation.

The Leonid, say the astronomers, occurs when the earth passes through the debris left in the trail of the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which completes an orbit around the sun every 33 years. At its peak of activity, about 20 meteors per hour are visible in the sky, the astronomers say.

They suggest that for the best view, one should lie on the ground and look at the sky between the east and a point right overhead. The meteors, which are popularly known as shooting stars, will not be difficult to see, they say. All that’s needed are clear skies and a good pair of eyes.

It’s also best to find a location away from city lights and other artificial lighting. Then it’s simply a matter of getting comfortable, gazing upwards, and waiting.

“This annual meteor shower is responsible for some of the most intense meteor storms in history,” the astronomers say. “Sometimes, meteors fall at rates as high as 50,000 per hour.”

Such will not be the case this year, however. Viewers can instead expect to see rates of 10 to 20 meteors per hour, according to Sky and Telescope.

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