The annual Leonid meteor shower is set to peak this week and, unlike normal years, will peak twice on Saturday morning, then again on Tuesday morning (November 20).
The Leonids are also normally known for putting on a spectacular display, but this year’s shower is only expected to garner between 10 and 15 meteors per hour, reports NBC News.
While the term “meteor shower” normally leads to visions of tons of shooting stars raining down on the Earth, such meteor storms are more rare. Usually meteor showers, like this year’s Leonids, are about a thousand times weaker.
A really good meteor shower will produce one meteor per minute for a given observer under a dark country sky. Any light pollution from a city or the moon can be detrimental to the number of meteors spotted.
This year the moon will not be an issue for the Leonid meteor shower, providing spectators a good view of the meteors that appear to radiate from the constellation Leo.
CBS News notes that the Leonids come from the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which is slowly disintegrating. Over the last several hundred years, the comet has left particles along its orbit, forming a moving river of rubble that is millions of miles wide and hundreds of miles long.
The particles travel at about 45 miles per seconds and when one of them strikes the Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a shooting star as it quickly vaporizes.
The Tempel-Tuttle comet orbits the sun once every 33 years and because of its close proximity to Earth between 1998 and 2002, spectators of the Leonids were treated to a fantastic show. Now that the comet is almost as far away from the Earth as it will get, however, the rates have dropped to their more typical 10 to 15 per hour.