Watch for the Leonid meteors in the wee hours before dawn Monday. Stellarium with additions by the author
Every 33 years this shower can become a huge spectacle with hundreds of meteors visible per hour at maximum. But not this year. The annual Leonid meteor shower zings from inside the Sickle of Leo, a bright, compact array of stars that resembles a backwards question mark or sickle. This time around we’re expecting to see between 15-20 meteors an hour with the peak activity expected during the early morning hours.
While that’s not a lot of meteors, it’s often enough as Leonids are swift — pinging our atmosphere at over 160,000 miles an hour (72 km/sec) — and famous for their fireballs. Unfortunately, the moon will be in waning gibbous phase right next door to Leo in the constellation Cancer. Its light will swamp many of the fainter Leonids, easily reducing the meteor count to more like 10 per hour.
A Leonid meteor from the 2009 shower streaks across the sky. Bob King
That makes the shower something more for diehard meteor watchers. If you’re one of them you can watch anytime from 1 to about 6 a.m. local time Monday ...