The Leonid Meteor Shower Will Bring Shooting Stars This November — How and When to See It

See shooting stars light up the night sky in the middle of the month.

In 1966, thousands of meteors burst from the heavens and illuminated the sky for a brief 15-minute period — eyewitnesses reported that the shooting stars almost looked like rain, given how many there were. This wasn’t a typical meteor shower, but a full-blown meteor storm, a phenomenon that’s been happening as part of the Leonid meteor shower for centuries.

While this year’s shower is expected to produce far fewer meteors — the dazzling storms only happen every 33 years or so — you can still look to the skies to witness shooting stars in the middle of the month. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the Leonid meteor shower?

The Leonid meteor shower is a mid-November astronomical event that occurs when the Earth passes through the trail of dust shed from the comet Tempel-Tuttle — it’s named for its radiant point, or the point from which the meteors seem to originate in the sky, which falls in the constellation Leo.

In a normal year, including 2020, the shower produces about 15 meteors per hour, which is considered a pretty moderate performance. But the Leonids are most famous for their extraordinary meteor storms, which happen roughly every 33 years (this happens to be how long it takes for the comet to orbit the sun). During those events, thousands upon thousands of meteors streak across the sky like rain, but just for a brief period of 15 minutes. The last meteor storm was in 2002, so we have a little time before the next big show.

Milky way on hill with Leonid meteor shower
Getty Images

When is the Leonid meteor shower?

The Leonids occur annually, roughly from Nov. 6 through Nov. 30. This year, the peak (when you can expect to see the most meteors) will happen in the late evening of Nov. 16 and the early morning of Nov. 17. The great news is that the moon will be just a tiny crescent, meaning there will be very little light pollution in the sky, enhancing viewing conditions.

How can I see the Leonid meteor shower?

As with all meteor showers, all you have to do is look up. That said, you’ll want to get as far away from light pollution as possible, so head for remote wilderness areas if you can. When you arrive, let your eyes adjust to the darkness for about 20 minutes or so, then get ready to take in the show. You’ll be able to see shooting stars all across the sky, not just in the direction of the constellation Leo (the Leonids’ radiant point), so keep your eyes peeled.

When is the next meteor shower?

Can’t catch the Leonids? You won’t have to wait long for the next show. The Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night of Dec. 13 and the morning of Dec. 14. Plus, it’s one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year, so you won’t want to miss it.

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