Tags:From PARI, the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute:
Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) remind the public of the annual Leonid Meteor Shower in November.
Meteors result from particles of dust causing the atmosphere to glow as the particles enter the upper atmosphere of the Earth. The Leonid Meteors, or “Leonids,” are associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle. 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.
In 2011 the Leonids are predicted to reach a peak of about 15 meteors per hour at midnight EST on Thursday, November 17. Thus, the best time for observing this year’s Leonids will be in the predawn hours of the 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 2011. This year we have a Third Quarter Moon in the predawn skies. Thus, the light of the Moon will interfere with observations of the fainter meteors.
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.
PARI is a not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu.