Leonid Meteor Shower Set to Peak this Weekend [VIDEO]
The Leonid meteor shower scheduled to peak this weekend will be largely upstaged by a full moon, which is set to flood the night sky with light and mask the majority of the shower.
According to Universe Today, the shower is projected to produce multiple peaks, the first one occurring Nov. 17 at 5:00 a.m. EST, with North America receiving the best views. The second peak will follow on its heels, arriving six hours later and will be best viewed from the central Pacific.
It's not only the full moon that will render the Leonids experience less than spectacular: the Leonids are notoriously sporadic, with showstopping performances occurring in 33-year-cycles when the host comet, known as Comet Tempel-Tuttle, enters the inner solar system. When this happens, it leaves a trail of dusty debris, many of which drift across the November portion of Earth's orbit, making it appear as though meteors are flying out of the constellation Leo.
"We can predict when Earth will cross a debris stream with pretty good accuracy," NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said in a statement. "The intensity of the display is less certain, though, because we don't know how much debris is in each stream."
In all, meteor rates are predicted to fall below 10 per hour this year, versus the average 10-20 meteors.
Since the Leonid meteors can appear in any part of the sky, NASA suggests lying on the ground and looking straight up in order to get the best view. It's important, officials note, to get away from urban lights and to allow the eyes up to 30 minutes to adjust.
For those who can't make it outside to see the view for themselves, NASA and the privately owned SLOOH Space Camera will be offering live streams of the event.