Weekend Leonids Meteor Shower on the Near Horizon – Great Viewing Expected for Most

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It’s becoming less cloudy as I sit and type this article. Good thing, too, as this YourWeatherBlog article is about gazing skyward and checking out the 2012 edition of the Leonids Meteor Shower this weekend.

You’re up on the Leonids, right? I wrote about this sky-filling meteor shower for the first time two years ago — and have continued to write about it, as well as many other notable astronomical happenings. It’s fun, for me, to switch gears and write about something that doesn’t have “a 30% chance” attached to it.

The Leonids, named for their apparent origination from the constellation Leo, are typically visible across the entire night sky. Look to the northeast for the most activity. Image: Bashewa

This year the Leonids will be visible by a large portion of the U.S. as a nice, strong, early winter high pressure system over the Great Lakes and the Northeast dominates from New England to the Rockies, while a secondary high pressure system dominates from the Four Corners to California and the eastern Pacific. Between the two highs there will be passing clouds, but the two main weather features are relatively localized: a developing low (next nor’easter?*) off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, and an impressively strong low pressure system moving out of the Gulf of Alaska towards the Pacific Northwest. Elsewhere, enjoy the meteors!

The Leonids Meteor Shower happens every year around this time. Fortunately for most, the weather will allow favorable viewing conditions. Image: ImpactWeather

The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers each year as it produces an average of 40 meteors per hour at its peak.  Associated with the Tempel-Tuttle comet, the shower has a 33-year peak where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17-18 but you may see some meteors several days on either side of the peak.

Last year, if you remember, the Leonids were dulled by a bright half moon (the last quarter of the new moon). Even worse, the moon seemed to hang in the exact spot in the sky from where the Leonids were originating. By this weekend however, the next full moon is still a week and a half away, so the crescent moon will set early in the evening which will allow dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight, and be sure to find a dark location for viewing. But don’t forget your jacket and blanket, as even Gulf Coast locations will be on the chilly side.

* Since writing “Already Another Storm System to Again Test Mettle of Sturdy East Coasters” earlier this week, the latest expected track of the developing storm seems to be favoring a more offshore path.

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