Lions in the Sky: The 2016 Leonid Meteor Shower

aurora-fireball-by-ross-ellet

Aurora Fireball, photo by Ross Ellet

Space.com’s page on How to Watch the Leonids says in part:

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in November, when Earth’s orbit crosses the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake. When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface. Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere cause the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.

…The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Thursday, Nov. 17, and early the following morning. Skywatchers might be able to see some meteors as early as Sunday, Nov. 13. However, with a full supermoon slated to rise Monday, Nov. 14, moonlight will likely outshine most meteors, rendering them difficult to see.

But don’t feel bummed if you don’t spot any of the early meteors. The Leonids will continue to graze the night sky until Nov. 21. At this point, the waning moon will be at its third quarter, meaning only half of the moon’s face will illuminate the sky. With less of the moon’s natural light obstructing the view, skywatchers who were unable to see the meteor shower at first will still have a chance to catch the last Leonid meteors.

Ross took this photo in late September of 2014 and writes:

The sky was cloudy most of the night, but at 3:30am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We made our way to the lakeshore and sure enough the northern lights were dim on the northern horizon. At one point you could hear the howl of a distant wolf pack while the northern lights were out. Then moments later a slow move fireball flashed across the sky. It lasted a couple seconds and the brightness pulsed as it moved through the atmosphere. After that the aurora faded, but several more meteors (some very bright) streaked above us.

View it background bigtacular and see more in his Porcupine Mtns slideshow, and definitely check out his website, Ross Ellet’s Weather & Photography for more!!

PS: Some of the best northern lights on the year happen in November so be sure to keep an eye on the skies!

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