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Bright lights will streak across skies with return of Leonid meteor shower

Several meteors are seen streaking through the sky during the Leonid meteor shower over Joshua Tree National Park, Calif., in this approximately 25-minute time exposure on Nov. 18, 2001. (AP File Photo)

Get set for some celestial fireworks, as the annual Leonid meteor shower will peak on the morning of Nov. 18.

This year’s meteor shower will have a bright moon in the sky and will reduce the normal volume of meteors that could be seen, but this is still a very interesting event to look at.

The Leonid meteor shower is one of the oldest of all showers and one of the most famous of all.

Records show that the Leonids were first recorded in ancient times, but attention with the Leonids soared with the shower of 1833.

A connection with comet Temple-Tuttle was established as the source of these meteors.

The meteor “storm” of 1833 was once of the most amazing sights in recorded history. Over 100,000 meteors were seen during the Nov. 13 event.

Some regions of the western United States reported well over 240,000 meteors per hour.

Here is how artists of the period reported the event.

The parent comet of this meteor shower moves around the sun in an orbit of some 33 years.

This means that there is a good chance that high numbers of meteors may be expected when the comet returns towards the sun.

The Leonids are known for many fast-moving particles, which on average may be some 10 millimeters in diameter down to particles as small as beach sand.

They move at speeds of 44 miles per second and appear as they enter the atmosphere of the Earth.

For more on the amazing history of the 1833 Leonid “storm”, visit this interesting link.

To locate the radiant of the Leonids, please review this star map.

The Leonids were very strong in Arizona back in 1966.

Some observers reported the storm of a lifetime was observed back on Nov. 17 that year at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson.

As the clock turned to 5 a.m. Arizona time, the sky poured out meteors from all directions, in what many lucky observers saw as a blizzard of meteors raging at over 150,000 per hour!

This year the peak will occur in the eastern sky from 2 a.m. until dawn Arizona time.

Even in bright moonlight you may get to see a few bright meteors that may leave a bright contrail and an impression on you.

Best of luck!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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