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Leonid Meteor Shower 2012 Peaks Overnight

The weather might be a bit nippy for the Leonid Meteor Shower 2012, but skies should be mostly clear for a great show over Ames. Here are some photos and video, too.

Skies are looking like they'll cooperate as the Leonid meteor shower gets under way, but it's going to be a bit on the chilly side.

The famous Leonids are expected to peak on Saturday, Nov. 17, in the pre-dawn hours, and the weather forecast for Ames is calling for clear skies Friday night with only a few moving in overnight as the show gets under way. An overnight low of 36 is predicted.

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

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.

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. 
  • Area viewing areas include McFarland Park outside Ames which might have less light pollution than other Ames parks.

Next Up:

  • The last shooting star cluster before New Year's is the Geminid Meteor Shower, expected to peak in the pre-dawn hours after midnight between Dec. 13 and Dec. 15. They will be visible in all parts of the sky and streak through the sky at more than 50 meteors per hour, almost a meteor a minute, according to EarthSky.com. The new moon is expected to fall on Dec. 13, making for optimal dark skies—as long as you avoid city lights and clouds, the website states.  

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