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Did you know you can use an inexpensive webcam to capture images of planets and other objects in the night sky?

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Leonid Meteor Shower

What is it?

The Leonid meteor shower takes place in mid November. While the Leonids usually peak somewhere between November 16-18 every year, shooting stars can often be seen a week or two before and after the peak date. Morning observing is a must for the Leonids, as the radiant rises late.

The Comet Tempel-Tuttle is the parent body of the Leonid meteor shower. In 1699, it was observed by Gottfried Kirch but was not recognized as a periodic comet until the discoveries by Tempel and Tuttle during the 1866 perihelion.

Where should I look for the Leonids?
  The meteors will appear to come out of the constellation Leo. The easiest way to find Leo is to look for a backwkards question mark shaped constellation in the Southern sky (circled below).
When should I look for the Leonids?
  In the United States and Canada, eastern observers will be particularly well-positioned for maximum activity, expected sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. EST, when the radiant of the Leonid shower will be well up in the dark southeastern sky.
Can I seen the shower if I live in a city?
  While the best place to watch is in a dark location you should be able some of the brighter meteors from the city. To find a good location you can check out our light pollution maps.

Meteoroids are the debris sloughed off from comets. When they reach the Earth's atmosphere and burn up, they are referred to as meteors; otherwise known as shooting stars. Those that hold together and actually reach the Earth's surface are known as meteorites.

It was once calculated that the Comet Swift-Tuttle was on a collision course with Earth, suggesting that an impact was likely to occur in the year 2026. That theory was quickly debunked as recalculations of the nearly dual century data showed differently. The new theory is that in the year 3044, the Comet Swift-Tuttle will brush by within a million miles of the Earth, considering this future event to be a true 'cosmic near miss' by astronomers.

  The Leonids have not only produced some of the best meteor showers in history, but they have sometimes achieved the status of meteor storm. During a Leonid meteor storm, many thousands of meteors per hour can shoot across the sky. Scientists believe these storms recur in cycles of about 33 years, though the reason is unknown. The last documented Leonid meteor storm occurred in 2002.
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