Alabama stargazers should be able to see the Leonid meteor showers this year — God’s own fireworks.
Alabama amateur astronomers should look for the meteors around midnight Alabama time (CST) on Saturday or Sunday. Here is a basic to-do list to see the show:
Get to an area with little “light pollution” and few obstructions to block your view – few buildings and trees.
Give your eyes about a half hour to adjust to the dark. This project takes patience.
Lie flat on your back and look east. You should begin to see the meteors at a rate of about 15 per hour. The meteor showers will last until dawn.
The best time to view is midnight to dawn. You have to be a dedicated stargazer to get up and do this.
If you miss the weekend show, you can still see Leonid meteors in the coming nights, but they will not be as frequent as the peak of November 18-19.
The Leonid meteor shower is annual and usually peaks in mid-November, but about three times each century, every 33 years or so, the yearly show is a super shower called a “meteor storm” with thousands of meteors an hour.
The Leonids produced meteor storms in 1966 and 2002. This phenomenon is expected again in 2034-35. Stay tuned to 1819news.com for updates on this development.
Astronomers do not expect a meteor storm this year. The meteor sightings will be infrequent. In the 2023 shower, there can be long periods of time with no meteors visible. Meteor sightings are expected to average once every three to six minutes. Patience.
The Leonids are so named because the point in the Earth’s sky from which the meteors seem to start is in the Leo constellation, the star pattern that resembles a sickle or backward question mark but is called “Leo the Lion.”
Leonid meteors come from the Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which moves through the inner solar system three times a century, every 33.3 years. Each time it passes close to the sun, it leaves debris, a dense trail of meteors. The infrequent meteor storms occur when Earth moves directly into a meteor trail that had followed the comet or preceded it.
Stars fell on Alabama.
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].