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2016 Leonid meteor shower

The Leonids will peak on the night of November 17 and early morning of November 18 in 2016, just 3 days after a full Moon. A bright waning gibbous Moon may make it difficult for viewers to see many meteors.

Illustration image

The Leonids peak around mid-November.

The Leonids can be seen by Northern and Southern Hemisphere observers.

©iStockphoto.com

We suggest that observers try their luck after midnight on November 18.

The Leonid meteor shower is annually active in the month of November and usually peaks around November 16 or 17. The shower is called Leonids because its radiant or the point in the sky where the meteors seem to emerge from, lies in the constellation Leo.

The Leonids occur when the Earth passes through the debris left by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet takes around 33 years to make one orbit around the Sun.

People can view about 20 meteors an hour at the peak of the Leonids meteor shower.

Where to view the Leonids

The Leonids can be seen by viewers from both hemispheres.

While it is not necessary to look in a particular direction to enjoy a meteor shower – just lie down on the ground and look directly above and you are bound to see some meteors. Astronomers suggest lying down on the ground and looking at the sky between the East and the point right above you to view the Leonids.

When to view the Leonids

The best time to view the Leonids is just after midnight and right before dawn.

Location in the Sky

The Leonids meteor shower is not visible at this time of year. The best date is around Nov 17, 2016; the table below is for that date:
Leonids meteor shower for Washington DC (Night between Nov 17 and Nov 18)
TimeAzimuth/DirectionAltitude
Midnight Thu-Fri69°East-northeast9.0°
Fri 1:00 AM77°East-northeast20.2°
Fri 2:00 AM86°East31.7°
Fri 3:00 AM96°East43.4°
Fri 4:00 AM108°East-southeast54.8°
Fri 5:00 AM127°Southeast65.3°
Fri 6:00 AM161°South-southeast72.3°
Note: times are for Nov 17, 2016.
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How to view the Leonids

There isn’t a lot of skill involved in watching a meteor shower. Here are some tips on how to maximize your time looking for the Leonids:

  • Get out of the city to a place where city and artificial lights do not impede your viewing
  • If you are out viewing the shower during its peak, you will not need any special equipment. You should be able to see the shower with your naked eyes.
  • Carry a blanket or a comfortable chair with you - viewing meteors, just like any other kind of star gazing is a waiting game, and you need to be comfortable. Plus, you may not want to leave until you can’t see the majestic celestial fireworks anymore.
  • Check the weather and moonrise and moonset timings for your location before you leave, and plan your viewing around it.

Topics: Astronomy, Meteors, November, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere

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