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Leonid Meteor Shower 2012 This Weekend, Weather or Not

Just when we survived the last one, another meteor show is descending from the skies this weekend. What you need to know about the Leonids.

That advancing autumn storm looks like it will prevent Napa Valley residents from viewing the Leonid meteor shower this weekend, but if you plan to travel - or if there's a break in the weather - here are some tips for your trip.

Space.com has a number of tips for watching the Leonids. The site also has some spectacular Leonids photos. And there's a Youtube video of the Leonid meteor shower, with this article.

The Leonids are expected to peak on Saturday, Nov. 17, in the pre-dawn hours, and the weather forecast for Napa suggests there'll be rainclouds parked overhead all weekend.

The show follows some nice shows by the Taurids Meteor Shower earlier this month, and the spectacular Perseids Meteor Shower, which wowed gazers in August. Local residents witnessed at least one fireball, and pieces of a meteorite were thought to be found in nearby Novato in October.

LEONID METEOR SHOWER INFORMATION: 

  • These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion.
  • One of the 10 cool things to know about the Leonids, from Space.com: "Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, it rounds the Sun and then goes back to the outer solar system. On each passage across Earth's orbit, Tempel-Tuttle lays down another trail of debris..."
  • This shower is called the Leonid shower because the meteors seem to come from a point in the constellation Leo. But they are really much closer to Earth than these stars are. The starting point, called the radiant, is found in the part of Leo that looks to be a backwards question mark. 
  • The Leonids has been called, some years, a "meteor storm" (rather than just a "shower"), but reports say this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." The last Leonid storm, with thousands of shooting stars per hour, was in 2002.
  • A report, from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: "Two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20).
  • Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.
  • The shower began November 17. To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully.

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