Keep your eyes peeled this weekend: If you're lucky, you may catch a glimpse of fireballs shooting across the night sky as the annual Leonid meteor shower makes its glorious return.
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The meteor shower, which contains debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, will be visible Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Earth will cross the "thickest part" of the Leonid meteors around 7 p.m. ET Saturday, Space.com reports, though you'll have the clearest view after midnight.
Viewers can expect to witness about 20 meteors per hour during the peak of the show, according to AccuWeather blogger Dave Samuhel.
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"The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains," the American Meteor Society says.
A meteor forms when a meteoroid, a type of space rock that breaks off from an asteroid — a rocky body orbiting the sun — enters Earth's atmosphere. As soon as the space debris crosses over, it breaks down into what scientists call a "meteor," which then vaporizes and — as a result of friction — appears as a bright streak of light in the sky.
"Because of their appearance, these streaks of light some people call meteors 'shooting stars,'" NASA explains in a blog post. "But scientists know that meteors are not stars at all — they are just bits of rock!"
Leonid meteors are seen streaking across the sky over snow-capped Mount Fuji, Japans highest mountain. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
"This shower is called the Leonid shower because the meteors seem to come from a point in the constellation Leo," NASA states online.
Your best bet at witnessing a fireball in action will be on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 — when the shower reaches its peak. You’ll be able to see the most meteors after midnight on Nov. 17.
The shower will be visible across the country, though pollution, weather and the Moon could cloud the sky and prevent you from catching the show.
Since the Leonids will "radiate from the northeast," Accuweather says people in the western and southeastern part of the U.S. will have the best visibility.
The bright meteors can also be colorful, and theyre fast, moving at 44 miles per second — among the fastest meteors. Fireballs and “earthgrazer” meteors are also a hallmark of the Leonid shower. Fireballs are brighter and larger and can last longer than the average meteor, while earthgrazers appear close to the horizon with long, colorful tails.
Leonid Meteor Shower November 2018: How to see a shooting star from the UK this weekend
Unlike solar eclipses, which requires special equipment to view the astrological event, you don't need anything to spot this celestial event.
"Get to a dark spot, get comfortable, bring extra blankets to stay warm, and let your eyes adjust to the dark sky," NASA suggests. "A cozy lounge chair makes for a great seat, as does simply lying on your back on a blanket, eyes scanning the whole sky."
The meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Leo, the Lion, as the meteors will be coming from the stars that make up the lions mane. But you dont need to look in the direction of the constellation, because the meteors will appear all across the sky.
Leonid Meteor Shower 2018: Leonids to send shooting stars across UK | Daily Star
If youre willing to brave some chilly early morning temperatures, youll have the opportunity to marvel at the bright strokes of cosmic debris from Novembers Leonid meteor shower, which is at its peak this weekend.
The Leonid meteor shower is peaking this weekend — heres how to see the stunning annual event
The best time to see this years Leonids peak is between 12 AM and 6 AM in all time zones throughout the US on November 17th and 18th. The best viewing times are after moonset (in the early morning when the moon sets into the Earths horizon) and right before dawn.
If you meteor-gaze after moonset, there will be be less light to interfere with your viewing. And with this weekends moon shining at a nearly full waxing gibbous phase, its better to look out for the Leonids with no moon in the sky at all.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth moves through a dense cloud of comet debris during its orbital journey. What you see are the trails of dust remnants collected over the years. The Leonids are usually visible in mid-November, when the Comet Tempel-Tuttle sprinkles Earths path with rocks and ice.
Read more: A weird, cigar-shaped object flew through the solar system last year. Now astronomers may know where it came from.
A meteor streaks across the night sky (upper R) over Rio de Janeiro early November 17, 1998. Reuters
The Leonids are known for being prolific, bright meteor storms with up to 100,000 meteors that whiz through the sky at every hour. Although this years shower wont be as immense, experts estimate that people will see up to 20 meteors per hour — a little more than the average of 10 to 15 meteors usually seen per hour during the Leonids.
Look, up in the sky! That was probably uttered by countless Texans Thursday night when a fireball was seen from Dallas to the Houston area.
Accuweather reported there may also be a few “stragglers” from last months Taurids meteor shower, so you could even see a few more meteors than anticipated.
Watch: Fireball lights up the sky over Texas
Along with moonlight, any light pollution should be avoided in order to really see the Leonids. For the best views, EarthSky suggests going to the countryside or an open field where there are few lights or trees.
Viewers in the western US (from Nevada up through Minnesota) and states in the Southeast are predicted to have the best viewing conditions. Areas in the Southwest and southern Plains will likely be covered in clouds, which would make seeing the Leonids more difficult. Parts of the country between Colorado and Illinois could also have trouble seeing the shower, since snow is expected to fall across that region this weekend.
The Northeast will also get some clouds, and brisk winds could make it unpleasant to be outside in the middle of the night, according to Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather.
This meteor shower got its name from the Leo the Lion star constellation, from which the dust particles disperse and radiate. The next major Leonid meteor storm isnt expected to occur until the early 2030s.