Lion’s Meteor’s Roar this Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 15, 2012 – 9:57 pm -

Skywatchers get ready for a display in meteors to grace Earthly skies as  the famous, annual Leonid shower peaks this weekend.

Like most meteor showers the Leonids are caused by Earth plowing through the dust trail left behind a comet, in this case 2 km wide Tempel-Tuttle, which circles the Sun every 33 years. When the comet gets close to the sun, melting ice releases pieces of dust, most no larger than a grain of sand and deposits them in clumps.

Read more about the Leonid meteors and how best to catch the sky show at National Geographic News

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Leonid Snapshot

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 17, 2009 – 12:45 pm -

The North American peak for the Leonid metoer shower has passed earlier this morning.  I camped out in my light polluted Montreal suburban backyard between 4 and 6 am and caught sight of 9 Leonids streaking across the starry skies. These numbers are surely quite a bit lower than what really was happening in the overhead sky, simply because of the artificially bright sky blocking most of the show. I was only able to see the very brightest. International numbers are still waiting to be updated to see what observers around the globe saw- stay tuned. Also waiting to see what the BIG second outburst will produce in Asia later this afternoon our time. 

In any case the Leonids I saw were super fast shooting stars that had definite colour to them – green, yellow and blue. I managed to snag one neat snapshot of a brief short meteor coming straight out of the head of Leo, the lion constellation.  The image below also shows the planet Mars, and even a satellite pass – which turns out to be an old Russian rocket booster Cosmos 2234, launched in 1993 and now tumbling around Earth 850 km in altitude. The night sky was busy!



Click to enlarge


 The image below is the enlargement of the above metoer showing the colours and a burst event as it ionized through the upper atmosphere, flying 200,000 km per hour.

Leonid meteor close-up

Leonid meteor close-up

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Leonids are Underway

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 16, 2009 – 10:29 pm -

According to the International Meteor Organization (IMO), which is the official clearing house for reports from amateur meteor watchers around the world, the Leonids have begun firing in Europe already. The chart below shows LIVE the average numbers of meteors per hour. As of 9 pm EST there is about 18 meteors per hour falling. Keep refreshing this page to see the numbers change during the night. Experts are predicting a peak to occur at 4 am EST or 1 am PST – east coast viewers ar favoured as the shower radiant , constellation Leo will be higher in the sky. Also check my blogs below for a complete viewer’s guide.

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Listen to Leonids LIVE

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 16, 2009 – 11:20 am -

If you want to experience the meteor shower in a different way, why not try and listen to shooting stars LIVE on the web. is offering folks a live feed to a military radar station in Texas that can pick up the echoes of meteors ionizing in the upper atmosphere above the installation. What you can hear is best described as an eerie  ’ping’ –  take a listen to a sample audio clip here(takes a few seconds to load).  It is worth listening to tonight because  rates of meteors  should be well over 30 shooting stars per hour. And if you get clouded out during prime-time just log-on to the radar site and enjoy the show from the comfort of your home.

Got any questions about the Leonids or meteor showers in general, then ask a world expert online today. William Cooke at NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville.Alabama, will be answering questions in a chat room set up by the agency starting at 4 pm Eastern Time TODAY (Nov.16). on their Leonid webpage here

I will have more Leonid meteor shower updates in the coming 48 hours as reports from the the main predicted outbust and peaks occur. Stay tuned…

Don’t  forget you can also get late-breaking stargazing news anytime by following me on Twitter and Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox.

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Meteors from the Lion’s Lair

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 14, 2009 – 8:06 pm -

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Usually the upcoming Leonid meteors are more a sprinkle than a bonafide shower, but this year’s performance promises to be much better than usual. In fact astronomers predict that during early  morning hours this Tuesday, November 17th skywatchers will be treated to an outburst of 30 to 50 shooting stars per hour.

The reason for this outburst is because Earth is brushing past a huge 100,000 km wide debris cloud left behind by the Leonids parent comet, Temple Tuttle. Every 33 years this 2 km  wide icy visitor makes a  run into the inner solar system shedding tons of dust off its icy surface as it melts due to the heat of the Sun. The monster debris cloud we are hitting this year was deposited back in 1464 and 1533.  The best seats in the house however, will be for observers in Asia and South Pacific where they may see upwards of 300 meteors per hour – but this main peak will unfortunately be happening during daylight hours here in North America on November 17th during late afternoon.

Regardless of where you are in the world, Leonids make for a pretty show, particularly from a dark location. Best time to look for them is from 1 am til dawn on Tuesday looking towards the eastern sky. They are named after the Leo, the lion constellation, where they appear to all originate from.  As a bonus, if you look carefully you will notice a ruddy colored star just above Leo – that is the Red planet Mars.  It almost appears as if the shooting stars are all coming from the direction of Mars. Also, because the Leonids are basically travelling towards us when Earth smashes into them, they tend to be the fastest meteors on record traveling through our atmosphere, with speeds of up to 210,000 km per hour! 

For more on the Leonids check out my National Geographic story.

Editor’s Note: Check out my new ‘Night Sky’ episode as seen on The Weather Network yesterday. Just click on the video on the left sidebar. to enlarge it just double click inside the video.

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