Fire in the Sky

Sky watchers from Asia and North America too – you’re in for a great galactic treat!

leonid lorenzoDuring the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, the annual Leonid meteor shower will light up the sky with delight for the eye. This year it should be visible to anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Leonids are created by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which makes its way through the inner solar system every 33 years on its orbit around the sun. Each time by, it leaves a new river of debris, mostly tiny bits of ice and rock. Over time, the cosmic streams spread out, so pin-pointing the exact effect which it causes is next to impossible.

When Earth plows into the debris, the debris hits the atmosphere and vaporizes. This sometimes creates wonderful streams of light and even an occasional fireball with a smoky trail.

The Leonid stream is moving in the opposite direction of Earth, producing impact speeds of 160,000 mph (72 kilometers per second). This is higher than many other meteors. The meteor shower can appear anywhere, however they all point to a hub, or radiant in the Leo constellation. This is where the name Leonid derives from.
The best way to view the show will be by catching it in a rural area, where there are few lights and buildings and traffic.

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