Leonids meteor shower: how to watch this month’s celestial show

The meteor shower will take place this weekend.
The meteor shower will take place this weekend.

This weekend, the night skies will be ablaze with streaks of light as the Leonids meteor shower hits Earth again.

If the view above is clear, you should be able to see between 10 and 15 falling stars an hour.

But where and at what time can you witness this natural spectacle? Here’s what you need to know:

What are the Leonids?

The Leonids are a prolific meteor shower that occur as the Earth moves through the dust trail of the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which was independently discovered by Wilhelm Tempel on 19 December 1865 and by Horace Parnell Tuttle on 6 January 1866.

They got the name from the constellation Leo the Lion where the meteors appear to radiate from a point around Leo’s head – the stars Adhafera and Algeiba. The showers can be the most spectacular of all meteor showers and peak in the month of November.

A Perseid meteor over the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank in 2013 (Photo: Getty)

When is the best time to see them?

Individual meteors from the shower can be seen throughout November but they will peak in intensity in the late night hours of Friday 17 November and carry through to the morning of Saturday 18 November.

The best time to view them is between midnight and dawn when the sky is at its darkest and even a modest shower will produce between 10 and 15 falling stars each hour.

And fortunately, the birth of a new moon means that visibility should be clear this time with no lunar light blocking the view.

Where is the best place to view them?

Anyone in the northern hemisphere will have the best view, especially people in Scotland, Canada and parts of Russia.

But don’t be put off, people in Northern America, Europe and some of Asia will also be able to see this spectacular space event.

Northumberland National Park is the place to be this weekend. Awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, it is officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens.

Head to open spaces, preferably away from any light pollution, get yourself comfortable on your back in a sleeping bag and blankets and gaze up at the sky.

Will you need a telescope?

If you have one, feel free to use it, but the shower can also been seen with the naked eye. But you’ll need to be patient and alert with your eyes on the skies at all times.

Nasa advises you don’t have to look in the direction of the Leo constellation to see the meteors as they are visible throughout the night sky.

“It is actually better to view the Leonids away from the radiant: They will appear longer and more spectacular from this perspective,” said Nasa.

“If you do look directly at the radiant, you will find that the meteors will be short – this is an effect of perspective called foreshortening.”