The Leonid Meteor shower 2010 will peak overnight starting at about midnight local time. Thanks to a ‘waxing gibbous Moon’, the viewing should be excellent, depending on local weather conditions. Upwards of 20 to 30 meteors should be seen per hour. The constellation of Leo in the eastern horizon is the space to keep an eye on. This has been a good year for backyard astronomy as the meteor showers are still getting a boost from Comet Tempel-Tuttle (55P) which made perihelion pass back in 1998.
Meteors are mostly dust and small remnants of comets and asteroids. As the Earth orbits the Sun, it travels annually through several large clouds of this dust and debris. In August, we had the Perseid meteor shower, generally a very good one for sky-watchers. The Leonid meteor shower is another annual event generally occurring in mid-November each year.
As these particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up due to the extreme velocities and friction. For a brief moment, a bright streak will appear in the sky as the particles meet their fiery end. Larger objects occasionally to succeed in surviving the atmosphere and fall to the Earth. Such meteorites collected by rock-hounds and geology buffs can fetch a good price, especially if they cause some notoriety when they impact. Such as a recent example in England when a meteorite actually hit a spectator at a soccer match.
To view the Leonid meteor shower 2010, the naked eye is all that is needed. A good set of binoculars always helps. Photography buffs like to set up their cameras and leave the shutter open for long exposures, of say 15 to 60 minutes per frame. This provides a cool effect of capturing many meteors as they streak across the night sky. For amateur astronomy, tonight’s space show will be a good one as the Leonid meteor shower will be extra strong thanks to remnants from Comet Tempel-Tuttle and a Moon that sets well before dawn.