The 2019 Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend.
With clear skies, there's a good chance you may be able to see a meteor Sunday night and see the peak in meteor showers early Monday morning.
According to the American Meteor Society, spectators can expect up to nine meteors an hour during this year’s peak time, which is expected to be around 5 a.m. Monday.
"Skywatchers may be able to see some meteors on days just before and after the peak, although the moon will continue to obstruct views," according to Space.com.
The meteors can be seen each year in November when Earth's orbit crosses with the comet 55P Tempel-Tuttle. The comet was discovered by German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Tempel and American astronomer Horace P. Tuttle in 1865. Both astronomers discovered the comet independently.
The comet “makes fairly frequent passes through the inner solar system,” according to David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather. “This lays out fresh debris in the path of the Earth's orbit every 33 years.”
When it does make a close approach to the planet, stargazers get to revel in explosive showers. In 1833, stargazers reported seeing as many as 72,000 shooting stars per hour, according to National Geographic. Later, in 1966, a group of hunters reported seeing 40 to 50 streaks per second over the duration of 15 minutes.
Scientists currently predict the next major outburst won't take place until 2099. But, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported, the comet will be returning closer to Earth in 2031 and 2064, meaning more intense storms are on the horizon. Smaller showers, like the one occurring this weekend, happen annually.
While the 2019 shower won’t bring hundreds of shooting stars an hour, it’s sure to be a delight in areas with clear skies and the absence of moonlight.
How to watch the meteor shower
Clear skies are essential for prime meteor shower viewing. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized streetlights, will block out the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so head somewhere far from city lights.
When you’re outside in the dark, lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up at the vast sky. Give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the environment.
Be sure to bring warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair and leave your telescope at home.
Unfortunately in Georgia, the viewing won't be as stellar. Meteorologist Katie Walls says the shower itself is expected to be mild – just 15 meteors per hour . There will also be a gibbous moon lighting up the predawn sky, which will make it tougher to see any meteors.
Here in Atlanta we have a third factor working against our viewing the show: clouds. An overcast sky is forecast in the metro through the morning.
The good news is the Leonids are active through Nov. 30th. So even though they peak tonight, you may get lucky and see a few “shooting stars” through the end of the month.
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