Leonid meteor shower to streak Northwest skies this weekend

WSU astronomer Michael Allen
WSU astronomer Michael Allen (Photo by Dean Hare, WSU Photo Services)

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

PULLMAN, Wash. – Weather permitting, a meteor shower will light up November’s night sky this weekend.

The Leonid meteors – so named because they appear to radiate from the constellation of Leo the Lion – will create a host of “shooting stars” late Friday night into the hours leading to dawn.

The absence of lunar glare will boost the brightness of this year’s mid-November display, said astronomer Michael Allen of Washington State University’s department of physics and astronomy.

“With the New Moon phase occurring on Friday, Nov. 18, moonlight will not interfere with meteor watching,” he said.

Leonid meteor blazes across the sky
A Leonid meteor blazes across the sky in November 2009. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Though the meteors have been intermittently swooping across the sky since early November, the greatest number will fall this weekend with an optimal rate of up to 20 an hour, said Allen.

With no illuminated moon to dampen the show, all the better for sky-gazers that Leonids are “bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains, “according to the American Meteor Society, referring to the often swirling trails of glowing vapor left in the sky after a meteor fades from view.

Because meteors become visible when they reach about 30 degrees from their radiant point, the Leonid celestial shower will appear sky-wide instead of from the direction of Leo, said Allen.

So bundle up, grab a thermos of hot chocolate and head outdoors away from street and building lights. For a wide view of the sky, look as straight up as possible by sitting on a reclining chair or laying on a sleeping bag, he advised.


Media contacts:

Michael Allen, WSU astronomer: 509-335-1279, mlfa@wsu.edu

Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209, linda.weiford@wsu.edu