Known for providing the most spectacular meteor showers, the annual Leonids is set to storm over Bristol this weekend. So set your eyes on the sky in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday – because you might just catch a glimpse of this gorgeous celestial phenomenon.
Known for fast, bright meteors, the Leonid meteor shower is named after the Leo constellation, as they appear to originate from that point in the sky. But the Leonids are actually associated with the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. As the comet passes the sun, it leaves behind a trail of debris that – entering our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second – breaks up and creates shooting stars.
According to Royal Museums Greenwich, which runs the Royal Observatory, at peak times, you can usually see up to 10 meteors an hour. This is nothing, however, compared to the more than 1,000 meteors per hour created by the Leonids every 33 years. This is when the comet passes closest to the sun, causing particularly dense cometary debris. Don’t expect to see this until 2031 though.
When can I watch the Leonid meteor shower?
Although the Leonid meteor shower is active from November 6 to 30, visibility is expected to peak on November 17 and 18. You should be able to see them with the naked eye too, weather-dependent, so no need for fancy equipment. But you will have to get up early.
The moon will set early in the evening this weekend, meaning the sky will be particularly dark in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday. Your best option is to take up watch from midnight to dawn for the best chance of seeing meteors. Of course, living in a city, light pollution will be another problem, so it might be best to get out of Bristol for the weekend.
Wherever you’re watching, just remember to wrap up warm, pack a comfy chair and bring a thermos. Stargazing takes a lot of watching and waiting – not always comfortable during these brisk November days. But trust us, you’re not going to want to miss out on seeing these bright, colourful streaks in the sky left by the Leonids!