Astronomy experts said the Leonid meteor shower of 2022 could light up the sky tonight as bright fireballs numbering into the hundreds erupt.
While the expected peak of the Leonids, known as one of the largest meteor showers of the fall season due to its bright fireballs, was indeed last night, some experts say there could be an even larger burst of shooting stars as early as Saturday, November 19, this year.
Weather conditions look favorable for viewing in New Jersey, with most of the state expected to be clear or partly cloudy after midnight. But it will be very cold.
“While it may not live up to its historic reputation, it could end up being one of the best astronomy events of the year,” AccuWeather said in a preview of the 2022 Leonids.
AccuWeather says two meteorite experts from the American Meteorological Society have analyzed the timing of Earth’s movement through various tracks of space debris from a comet known as 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, and they believe our planet could see the largest wave of falling stars. early Saturday morning.
If their analysis is correct, AccuWeather says, skywatchers could “see between 50 and 200 meteors per hour” over a short period on Saturday. They say the main window for this big eruption could be between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.)
However, other experts aren’t convinced that the Leonids will put on a great sky show this year. But they say it’s still worth watching late Friday night through early Saturday.
During an average year, the Leonid shower usually generates 10 to 15 meteors per hour in dark areas away from city lights. And in some years, this shower has seen the eruption of a large number of bright fireballs, numbering in the hundreds.
Astronomy site EarthSky agrees that the Leonid meteor shower sometimes over-performs, with massive numbers of shooting stars. But, “in most years, the lion groans rather than roars.”
Experts say the Leonids will continue to appear in smaller numbers through Dec. 2 after the peak ends on Saturday.
When and where to look
You can see the Leonid meteors from almost anywhere, but experts say you’ll increase your chances if you go to a park or open area in a rural location, as far away as possible from bright city and street lights.
Bring a blanket or lawn chair for comfort, and bundle up, because temperatures are a lot lower than normal in our area this week. Give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the darkening sky when you look up.
Thrillist.com says “the best time to see the Leonids is after midnight and in the morning local time” on Friday. “An early end to that window might be best, though, because the last quarter moon will rise after midnight,” perhaps blocking your view of the fainter meteors. “
As for what part of the sky to look at, Thrillist recommends looking near the constellation Leo, the Leonides radiant—the region of the sky from which meteors appear to have originated as they shoot.
“However, it does not properly look at radiation,” says the site. “The meteors will move away from that point. You will see more meteors than anywhere else in the sky.”
The Leonids are among the fastest meteors of any large shower, Space.com says, “shooting through the sky at 44 miles per second.” The space site notes that fast velocities like this “tend to produce meteors that are bright and colored in hues of white, blue, blue and even green, leaving long-period streaks or trains in their wake.”
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.
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