Leonids 2007

The Leonid meteor shower has been responsible for some of the most spectacular celestial displays in history. Most recently, there were several extremely intense Leonids from 1998 to 2002, with some observers reporting more than 1,000 meteors per hour.

Meteor storms like these happen only around the time that the parent comet, 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, makes it closest approach to the Sun. Tempel-Tuttle is now far from Earth and the Sun, so the 2007 Leonids are expected to be modest, with no more then 10 meteors visible per hour. However, the Leonids have yielded surprises before, so they're always worth watching.

S&T Illustration
The shower peaks on the night of Saturday–Sunday, November 17–18. Leonids start to be visible after the shower's radiant rises above the horizon, around midnight at mid-northern latitudes. Conveniently, the Moon sets around the same time. You're likely to see increasing numbers of meteors as the radiant gets higher toward dawn.

As long as you're outside in the early morning, don't forget to look at the sky's other attractions. In addition to all the brilliant winter stars, several bright planets are on display. Mars blazes at magnitude -1 almost directly overhead. Saturn climbs into the sky not far behind the Leonids' radiant. And Venus clears the eastern horizon around 3 a.m.

And of course, take a good look at amazing Comet Holmes, which is well above the horizon all night long.

12 thoughts on “Leonids 2007

  1. John

    Sounds great — in which direction should we concentrate our gaze so we have the best chance of seeing those “ten-an-hour” meteors?

  2. Layla

    well if you read the article john and saw the diagram I would presume towards the east that includes where you should “concentrate your gaze on.” 🙂 depending on what side of the world you are.

  3. Thomas

    John –
    I don’t have the answer to your question, but don’t you think posting only once would be enough, instead of 5 times. You need to be a little patient when posting…give the website a chance to catch up. It is not instant.

  4. Jeff Campbell

    Early this morning (11/17/07) at 1:28 AM, while driving on I-80 between Grand Island and Lincoln, NE, I happened to be looking at the Sickle when I saw a bright flash out of the corner of my eye. I quickly looked and saw a bright triangular shaped streak about 10-12 degrees long passing through Canes Venaciti. It was easily brighter than -6 magnitude, and due to the size of the streak, it appeared much brighter. The flash was even brighter. The weird thing was that right in the middle of this triangular streak was a black line, a gap that seperated the streak in half. The front half, or the half after the dark gap, appeared to have a slightly more fringe-like edge to it. The whole thing last several seconds after the flash before disappearing. As best as I can tell, based on the flash, gap, and overall appearance, I think I might have seen a meteor explosion, or possibly one meteor hitting another. I traced the tail backwords towards a spot about halfway between the center and the top edge of the Sickle. The downside, only about five minutes before it happened I had pulled over on the side of an exit ramp alongside my friends vehicle (the driver of that vehicle noticed the flash too, but didn’t look towards it). If only I had my camera out…..

  5. Melvyncar

    The most important thing is to have a DARK SKY, hard in Britain!
    looking towards the Constellation Leo, might point you in the right general direction, but ideally,30 or so degrees off from directly towards Leo.
    If the sky is Clear, look in the direction where it is darkest to see the most Meteors.

  6. boylemike1

    After 1 am Look directly east. You will see 2 fairly bright “Stars” Regulus and the planet Saturn.
    (I don’t see these until 2 am because of trees.)
    The meteors appear to streak from this area.

    Get away from lights. Best if you are dark enough
    to see the Milky way. (I can’t see the Milky way but I catch a few.

    It takes patience.

    Mike B. TPA FL

  7. marc in ciincinnat

    i am in light polluted city skies here…for the past hour enjoying the view of mars in gemini, saturn below leo, and venus at the horizon, with the winter hexagon visible. over the past hour i have seen about 5 shooters, 2 of which were of note with 2-3 second trails. a modest showing as indicated by tony flanders appears accurate…i am sure in a dark sky things are a bit more exciting, but really no complaints (except can’t we all save some energy and turn off all those lights at night???).::))

    marc in cincinnati, ohio

  8. Random111

    I saw a bright fireball that was around -5. I traced it to the Sickle of Leo. Just after I saw it, I heard a popping-whistling noise. I read that meteors can make noise if they are bright enough. Did that fireball make noise?

  9. Rambli

    I am from Kuching (Borneo) and at 2106hrs (+8 GMT) while driving in town (so a lot of streetlights), a bit cloudy sky, and the quarter moon was nearly overhead, we saw a nice fireball. My 15 yrs old daughter thought it was a firework and poor my 10 yrs old sitting in the back missing it all.

  10. Frank Dempsey

    I watched an unexpectedly nice Leonid meteor shower Sunday morning, despite predictions for a ‘weak’ shower. I counted 27 Leonids in an hour and a quarter, with limiting magnitude 6, and I thought that it was reasonably impressive. Some were faint and some were bright but it was a very nice shower to watch.

    Frank Dempsey
    Pickering Ontario

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