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Leonid Meteor Shower: When to Look Up

The Leonid Meteor Shower 2012 began Nov. 6 and is set to peak on Saturday, Nov. 17.

It may be cloudy and chilly, but it's worth trying to catch a glimpse as the Leonid meteor shower gets under way early Saturday morning.

Space.com has a number of tips for watching the Leonids. The site also has some spectacular Leonids photos. And here's a Youtube video of the Leonid meteor shower.

The show follows some nice shows by the Taurids Meteor Shower earlier this month, and the spectacular Perseids Meteor Shower, which wowed gazers in August.

JPL astronomer Jane Houston Jones doesn't expect the shower to be visible in the Los Angeles area because of weather conditions, according to her Facebook page.

Watching in Altadena

The famous Leonids are expected to peak Saturday, Nov. 17, in the pre-dawn hours, and the weather forecast for Altadena is calling for mostly cloudy skies Friday night and Saturday, but if you want to give it your best shot and try your luck, you could try the Cobb Estate, Eaton Canyon, or some of the higher altitude neighborhoods in town. Traveling up Highway 2 into the Angeles National Forest would likely be the best local option.

According to the Dark Sky Finder website, Altadena is located right along the edge of the higher light pollution area created by the dense population of the metro Los Angeles area.

That means that while light pollution may be a problem when it comes to viewing the meteor shower, the nearby San Gabriel Mountains do mean that in favorable conditions Altadena residents have some of the best chances for good celestial viewing in the Los Angeles area.

LEONID METEOR SHOWER INFORMATION: 

  • These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion.
  • One of the 10 cool things to know about the Leonids, from Space.com: "Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, it rounds the Sun and then goes back to the outer solar system. On each passage across Earth's orbit, Tempel-Tuttle lays down another trail of debris..."
  • This shower is called the Leonid shower because the meteors seem to come from a point in the constellation Leo. But they are really much closer to Earth than these stars are. The starting point, called the radiant, is found in the part of Leo that looks to be a backwards question mark. 
  • The Leonids has been called, some years, a "meteor storm" (rather than just a "shower"), but reports say this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." The last Leonid storm, with thousands of shooting stars per hour, was in 2002.
  • A report, from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: "Two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20).
  • Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.
  • The shower began Nov. 6. To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully.

Contributions from Reza Gostar are also in this article. 

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