The Leonids are tonight! Should you watch? Oh, yes. Here’s how, when, and why to watch the meteor battery tonight—along with article abnormally ablaze you may be able to atom in this year’s shower.
Image Source: giphy.com
The Leonids are a meteor battery formed by the bits of Comet Tempel Tuttel afire up alluringly all about our atmosphere. Ordinarily, this is a adequately ablaze shower, and this year will acceptable be appropriate forth those lines, with an accepted amount of 15 meteoroids an hour.
Top image: 2009 Leonid meteor battery / Navicore / Left Image: 1966 Leonid battery / NASA
Every already in about thirty-three years, though, the Leonids turns from a meteor battery to a meteor storm area the meteors falling cardinal in the thousands—and aback that happens, alike the heaviest meteor showers of the year (the Perseids, the Geminids) attending about hilariously baby in comparison.
Reports of actual storms can be intense—in 1966, NASA briefly appear up to ten thousand meteors at one time. Attractive added aback in history, added acute storms additionally occurred, although with beneath admonishing for sky-watchers, and the art they aggressive is bluntly appealing apocalyptic looking:
Image: 1833 Leonids, Erik Arnesen (Oslo, Norway; 1913) via ESO
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The aftermost big Leonids storm was in 1999, so mark your calendars for 17 years from now because it should be article to absolutely see.
Timing-wise, the pre-dawn hours for this year’s appearance should be almost acceptable for meteor-spotting—but if you’re not afraid to set a 2 a.m. wake-up call, don’t fret: Moonset should be accident aloof afterwards midnight, which makes it the best time to watch, in agreement of accepting a aphotic canvas.
Although the meteors are accepted to be adequately dispersed in this year’s shower, there’s still affluence to see. If few in numbers, the Leonids are conspicuously ablaze and acutely quick-moving, at 44 afar per second—faster alike than the contempo Orionids shower. All of this makes this battery an accomplished befalling to attending for fireballs, the showiest of all meteoroids.
Image: 1998 Leonids / Yan On Sheung via NASA
How should you aggressive watch? Wait for the moon to set, and again grab either a backyard armchair or a absolute to lay out. It’s arctic out there, and you’re activity to be out for awhile, so afore you set out accomplish abiding you’ve got all your winter astrochemistry supplies: hat, coat, gloves, an added blanket, a flask.
Image Source: gfycat.com
A acceptable abode to alpha attractive is appropriate amid Leo and the Big Dipper, area you’ll acquisition the meteor shower’s radiant, like so:
Image via Harvard – Smithsonian Center for Astrochemistry
But remember, because these meteors are so quick and bright, you’re not activity to appetite to focus too attentively on any one application of sky. Acquisition the radiant, but again aloof attending up at the sky as a whole. You appetite to be able to see not aloof the alpha of the meteoroid, but the abounding band beyond the sky—plus the casual aisle of meteor smoke.
And speaking of seeing abnormal things up there…
Okay, so one of the absorbing aspects of the Leonids meteor battery is that you generally apprehend letters of actual ablaze meteors. Aloof which blush that is, though, tends to alter wildly. Some bodies assert on a greenish tinge, while others affirmation a brownish amethyst or orangey-yellow.
Image Source: gfycat.com
So what’s activity on? Wild imaginations? A ambush of the eye? No, it’s absolutely real, and it has to do with the close apparatus of meteoroids.
Image: 1966 Leonid battery / GSFC-NASA
There are a lot of altered variables at assignment in appearance a meteoroid, mainly the metals in the agreement and the ablaze about them—and that’s decidedly accurate with the agreement of the Leonids. NASA explains the acumen abaft all the altered colors, and why you’re seeing them, like so:
The blush of abounding Leonids is acquired by ablaze emitted from metal atoms from the meteoroid (blue, green, and yellow) and ablaze emitted by atoms and molecules of the air (red). The metal atoms afford ablaze abundant like in our sodium acquittal lamps: sodium (Na) atoms accord an orange-yellow light, adamant (Fe) atoms a chicken light, magnesium (Mg) a blue-green light, ionized calcium (Ca ) atoms may add a violet hue, while molecules of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and oxygen atoms (O) accord a red light. The meteor blush depends on whether the metal atom emissions or the air claret emissions dominate.
Of course, there are colors that tend to predominate–green seems to be an oft-noted one–but absolutely there are all sorts of things you may see aback you attending up tonight.
Image Source: bestanimations.com
Image: NASA/ISAS/Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano
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