How to watch the Leonid meteor shower tonight

Get your binoculars ready because meteors will paint the sky with their fleeting light Wednesday morning.

The Leonid meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours on November 17.

This meteor shower is known for having a storm every 33 years, with the last storm happening in 2002, NASA said.

Its meteor debris originates from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, a small comet about 2.24 miles (3.6 kilometers) wide, according to NASA. The comet is hurtling through space at a velocity of 44 miles (71 kilometers) per second, NASA said.

Viewers of the Leonid meteor shower, in areas of the United States where the weather will be clear, should expect to see about 10 to 15 meteors per hour, EarthSky said. A meteor storm has significantly more shooting stars than a meteor shower — at least 1,000 per hour, according to NASA.

How to watch

The moon is unfortunately in a waxing gibbous phase on peak night, meaning that much of the moon will be visible. The bright light will make it harder to see the meteors streak across the sky.

For best viewing conditions, go to a dark area with no light. Skies with a moon that is covered is best, according to EarthSky. If the moon is visible, wait until dawn to look for the meteors because at that point the moon will have set for the evening, EarthSky said.

If there is heavy cloud cover, you may not see anything. “Cloud cover will be widespread across the Great Lakes and Midwest, stretching into the Central Plains for overnight into Wednesday morning,” said Monica Garrett, a CNN meteorologist.

The skies will be clear in the South; West, to the west of the Rocky Mountains; and Northeast, along the coast, she added.

Don’t fret if you miss the shower’s peak. The Leonid meteor shower will continue through November 30, according to NASA.

There are more meteor showers you can catch during the remainder of 2021, according to EarthSky’s 2021 meteor shower guide:

  • December 13-14: Geminids
  • December 22: Ursids

Solar and lunar eclipses

This year, there will be one more eclipse of the sun and another eclipse of the moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

A partial eclipse of the moon will take place November 19, and skywatchers in the main continent of North America and Hawaii can view it between 1 a.m. ET and 7:06 a.m. ET.

The last month of the year will kick off with a total eclipse of the sun on December 4. It won’t be visible in North America, but those in the Falkland Islands, the southern tip of Africa, Antarctica and southeastern Australia will be able to spot it.

Visible planets

Skywatchers will have multiple opportunities to spot the planets in our sky during certain mornings and evenings for the remainder of 2021, according to the Farmers’ Almanac planetary guide.

It’s possible to see most of these with the naked eye, with the exception of distant Neptune, but binoculars or a telescope will provide the best view.

Mercury will shine in the night sky from November 29 to December 31.

Venus, our closest neighbor in the solar system, will appear in the western sky at dusk in the evenings through December 31. It’s the second-brightest object in our sky, after the moon.

Mars will make its reddish appearance in the morning sky between November 24 and December 31.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is — when visible — the third-brightest object in our sky. Look for it in the evenings through December 31.

Saturn’s rings are only visible through a telescope, but the planet itself can still be seen with the naked eye in the evenings now through December 31.

Binoculars or a telescope will help you spot the greenish glow of Uranus in the evenings through December 31.

And our most distant neighbor in the solar system, Neptune, will be visible via a telescope during the evenings through December 31.

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