18, 2009. Starting in the evening on November 17 and continuing to
approximately 8:00 AM on November 18, the meteor shower will be in its most
active phase. Scientists predict that large shooting stars will streak
across the sky every few minutes at the height of the shower, to take place
between 12:30 and 2:30 AM in California.
Because the new moon occurs on November 16th, the sky will be quite dark for
the Leonid, making the shower storms more visible to the naked eye and
making it possible to see lighter streaks more clearly. Shooting stars will
be visible until dawn, at about 5:00 AM.
The Leonid meteors are thought to originate from a 2.2-mile comet discovered
in the late 1800s and named Tempel-Tuttle.
The Leonids are likely dust dropped by Tempel-Tuttle. As this dust, or tiny
pieces of Tempel-Tuttle the size of a grain of sand, hit the earth's
atmosphere, they flare brightly and appear to us as "shooting stars."
Although the peak of the Leonid meteor shower is on November 17-18, it
extends for several days in both directions of these dates. Look at the
night sky in the pre-dawn hours on days before and after the peak for
increased meteor activity. Although the Leonids put on a display every year,
scientists predict more activity than usual in 2009, with perhaps as many as
30 shooting stars per hour during the peak 2 hours on Thursday night.
Scientists also predict that the quality of the meteor display will be
outstanding, with many Leonids blazing a trail for more than a minute and
hanging in the sky.