November 15, 2013
NASA TV Plans Live Coverage Of Leonid Meteor Shower This Weekend
[ Watch the Video: Catch The Leonids At Home Via Ustream ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Good news for those living in areas where it might be difficult to watch the 2013 Leonid meteor shower as it reaches peak conditions this weekend -- NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will be providing a live Ustream video of the event.
The Leonids will peak starting on the night of Saturday, November 16 and last into the early morning hours on Sunday, November 17, the US space agency announced on Thursday. Unfortunately, NASA scientists warn that the full moon will most likely make it impossible to see all but the very brightest Leonids, but those that are visible can be watched via the agency’s Ustream feed.
“Meteor rates, normally 10-20 per hour, are predicted to be less than 10 per hour,” NASA said. “The shower should be visible from any populated area on the planet with clear dark skies, though Northern Hemisphere observers are favored due to the radiant's location in the constellation Leo.”
“For optimal viewing, find an open sky because Leonid meteors can appear in any part of it,” the agency added. “Lie on the ground and look straight up into the dark sky. Again, it is important to be far away from artificial lights. Your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to dark-adapt.”
[ Watch the Video: A Leonids Fireball From 2002 ]
The Leonids are small chunks of debris originating from the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The comet visits the inner Solar System once every 33 years, leaving a stream of debris and particles in its wake, NASA explained. Several of those streams have drifted across the November portion of the planet’s orbit, and once Earth travels close enough to one, it appears as though meteors are coming out of the constellation Leo.
According to Bill Cooke, the head of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, astronomers “can predict when Earth will cross a debris stream with pretty good accuracy. The intensity of the display is less certain, though, because we don't know how much debris is in each stream.”
November 17 was also the peak viewing time for the Leonid meteor shower last year, according to 2012 reports from the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. The best time to view the event was several hours before dawn, they said. However, unlike this year, the moon was below the horizon last year, meaning that its light did not wash out any of the meteors.