If you’ve stared up at the sky recently and noticed a few shooting stars, it’s because the annual Leonid meteor shower has been putting on a beautiful celestial show since November 6. If you want to see the spectacle at its peak, however, you need to go outside between the night of Sunday, November 17 and the morning of Monday, November 18, between midnight and dawn.
The shower happens when Earth, on its way around the sun, crosses the path of a comet. The debris left behind from the passage of that comet enters our planet’s atmosphere, causing it to heat up, burn, and create dazzling streaks of light.
On a moonless night, about 10 to 15 meteors an hour are visible, but this year, the bright waning gibbous moon may make viewing more difficult. EarthSky suggests that you try to keep the moon out of sight by observing in the shadow of a mountain or large building. And, as usual, you’ll have to wait between 15 and 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness before you can see anything.
If you can’t see much on the peak night, try again on a different night when the moon is smaller. The phenomenon will last until November 30, so you have some time to find a dark spot to sit back and enjoy the shooting stars.