© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

Leonid meteor shower

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 (96 days ago)

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The Leonid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 18 November 2017. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 15 November to 20 November.

Annual meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. As pebble-sized pieces of debris collide with the Earth, they burn up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km, appearing as shooting stars.

By determining the speed and direction at which the meteors impact the Earth, it is possible to work out the path of the stream through the Solar System and identify the body responsible for creating it. The parent body responsible for creating the Leonid shower is 55P/Tempel–Tuttle.

Observing prospects

The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 20 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula.

From Ashburn (click to change), the radiant of the shower will appear 7° above your north-eastern horizon at midnight. This means you are likely to see only around 2 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be low in the sky, reducing the chance of seeing meteors.

The radiant of the Leonid meteor shower is at around right ascension 10h10m, declination 22°N, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above.

The Moon will be 30 days old at the time of peak activity, presenting minimal interference.

To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

The sky on 18 November 2017
Sunrise 06:55
Sunset 16:52
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

30-day old moon
Age of Moon
30 days

All times shown in EST.
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:49 13:22 17:55
Venus 05:51 11:05 16:18
Moon 06:55 12:08 17:22
Mars 03:36 09:21 15:06
Jupiter 05:24 10:43 16:02
Saturn 09:16 14:01 18:46


The Handbook of the British Astronomical Association.

Image credit

© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.




Color scheme