As this comet revolves around the Sun every 33 years, it gives off gases and dust particles due to the heat of the Sun. While the gases eventually are dispersed throughout space, the dust particles remain as a trail of debris in the path of the comet long after the comet has gone on to the cold outer regions of the Solar System. Since the Earth encounters this trail of debris at the same point in space each time it makes its annual revolution around the Sun, we observe the Leonids on the same date each year, around November 17-18.
This year, the Leonids are predicted to reach a peak of about 15 meteors per hour at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 17. Of course, we won’t see meteors during the daylight hours. Thus, the best time for observing this year’s Leonids will be in the pre-dawn hours of the 17th and 18th.
As with all meteor showers, the Leonids are best observed between midnight and dawn from a clear, dark location with a good, clear horizon. The Leonids have been known to flare up into spectacular showers but, unfortunately, no such “meteor storm” has been predicted for 2010. This year we have a waxing gibbous moon in the evening skies. Thus, the light of the Moon will interfere with observations of the fainter meteors until moonset shortly after 3 a.m. on the 17th (4 a.m. on the 18th).
Give it a try; look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Leo the lion. Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteors.
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