Colourful meteor shower prime time

The annual Leonids meteor shower is set to reach its peak. The tiny high-speed particles come from the tail of Comet 55 P/Tempel-Tuttle, which was last in the vicinity of the Earth in 1998.

To the eye, the meteors appear to originate from a point in the constellation Leo.

This year, astronomers predict a strong peak of activity in the shower, with the best views from Asia.

On this continent, astronomers may be able to see 200-300 meteors per hour.

If the Leonid peak lasts longer than predicted, it may be possible to see the end of it from Europe.

North American observers may be able to view the shower from the early hours of the morning until dawn on Tuesday 17 November.

Viewing conditions are expected to be good this year in North America, because the Moon will not be lighting the sky.

A second, more intense outburst of Leonids may happen about 12 hours later, during the early morning hours of 18 November in Asia.

The trick for all observers is to head outside in the wee hours of the morning - between 1 a.m. and dawn - regardless of where you live.

The Leonids put on a solid show every year, if skies are clear and moonlight does not interfere. This year the moon is near its new phase, and thus it won't be a factor that detracts from the show. For anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with dark skies, away from urban and suburban lighting, the meteor shower should be worth getting up early to see.

"We're predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. Other astronomers who work in the nascent field of meteor shower prediction have put out similar forecasts.

Via - BBC News and MSNBC



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