Leonids meteor shower set to peak: How to see the shooting stars

Monday, November 16, will see the Leonids meteor shower peak. During the early morning of November 16 and November 17, an average of 15 shooting stars will take to the sky every hour.

The Leonids is one of the more prolific showers of the year as fast, bright shooting stars will be seen in the hours between midnight and dawn.

The Leonids are the result of Earth travelling through the debris left by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Tiny specks of ice which have been left in the comet’s wake collide with Earth’s atmosphere, giving the appearance of shooting stars.

US space agency NASA said: “When comets come around the sun, the dust they emit gradually spreads into a dusty trail around their orbits.

“Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky.”

According to astronomers, to spot the meteors, simply look for the star constellation of Leo in the night’s sky, which is where the Leonids gets its name from.

Viewers will need to be eagle-eyed though, as Leonids hurtle through the heavens at 158,400mph (254,920kmh) – the fastest-known meteor shower.

When searching for the best place to view the meteor shower, you should factor in the amount of light present.

Most meteor showers are best seen after midnight and before dawn when the skies are at their darkest.

Pay attention to man-made light sources of light, such as street lamps and urban areas.

The Royal Greenwich Observatory stated: “Hunting for meteors, like the rest of astronomy, is a waiting game, so it’s best to bring a comfy chair to sit on and to wrap up warm as you could be outside for a while.

“They can be seen with the naked eye so there’s no need for binoculars or a telescope, though you will need to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.

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“However, if you miss the peak, the shower continues at a reduced rate for several days either side, so there should be plenty of chances to see the display.

“For the best conditions, you want to find a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution.

“The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so it’s good to be in a wide open space where you can scan the night sky with your eyes.

“But if you trace the paths that the meteors take, they seem to originate from the constellation of Leo.”

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