The Leonids promise to dazzle this year

How to better observe

The shower radiant (for the star chart, see Sky This Month on page 29) does not rise until local midnight and will not be highest in your location until dawn. And luckily, pre-dawn viewing hours are the best for meteor viewing, because that’s when your viewing site begins to bob headlong into the flow of debris. So the best way to approach this year’s Leonid Shower is to prepare for a five-day morning vigil from November 16-21.

Imagine the Earth as a car speeding down the highway. Just as insects crash into the front windshield more frequently than the rear windshield, Leonid meteors also appear to crash into Earth’s atmosphere more frequently as our planet rushes through the debris flow of the comet.

Where should you look? While the paths of rain meteors can be traced back to a point on Lion’s Sickle, most appear as streaks of light some distance from that radiant. Shower meteors near or at the radiant may appear as a short, quick flash or a puffing point source. Meteors farther from the radiant will take the form of longer streaks of light. Both are remarkable, so divide your time between looking at the beaming and a bit further.

In the latter case, it is best to focus your attention on an area about 20° to 40° (two to four fist widths) from the radiant and about halfway up the sky, as you will be covering more area. The same advice generally applies to those wishing to image the event.

As a general rule, the farther a meteor is from the radiant, the longer its trajectory. However, it’s important to know where the radiant shower is, as you’ll need to retrace the meteor’s path to make sure any meteor you see isn’t sporadic – a rogue meteor whose path can’t be traced back to you. to a specific source.

A nocturnal treat

I can’t explain enough why these screens are worth it. If November 19 produces anything like the display I saw on the morning of November 16, 1999, it shouldn’t be missed.

That morning, observers at some lucky locations around the world saw a splendid rain of about 250 fireballs per hour falling from the sky. And even if it wasn’t a storm, the grandeur and magnitude of the meteors will forever be etched in my mind, especially since a strange flash through my bedroom window woke me up that night. . Once outside, I saw 30 dazzling fireballs and four more meteors falling from the Sickle of the Lion in 45 minutes.

Even if numbers like that don’t materialize this year, since the Leonids are already known for their brightness, any increase in brightness or numbers will be welcome on November 19th.

Ultimately, while we’re not sure if any of the Leonid 2022 events will shock and visually amaze, it’s best to be prepared for whatever the shower has in store. As always, with meteor viewing, expect the unexpected!

About Johnnie Gross

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