Leonid Meteor Shower 2020

Leonid Meteor Shower 2020

09/11/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020, the Leonids peak on the 16 and 17 November, with up to 15 meteors per hour.

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Leonids

Leonids
Leonids in 1833. Credit: Edmund Weiß

We’re spoiled for meteor showers at this time of year. This week, the Leonids peak on the night of the 16 and morning of the 17 November 2020. 

The Leonids typically produce up to 15 meteors an hour. These meteors are caused by the Earth passing through the debris left behind by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. As this debris – mostly made of small dust grains – hits Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, it heats up and disintegrates in flashes of light that we call meteors.

In the past, the Leonids have produced some of the most dramatic meteor showers ever witnessed. Roughly every 33 years, a Leonids storm produces nearly 1000 meteors an hour. Last seen in 1999, the next storm isn’t expected until around 2032.

This year the early phases of a waxing crescent moon will give very little illumination, so you should be able to catch quite a few of the meteors. The best viewing will be after midnight on the night of 16-17 November, if the skies are cloudless.

How to Watch

Adapted from Stellarium

Adapted from Stellarium

The Leonids are named after the constellation Leo the Lion as this is the direction from which they appear to originate. While the meteors originate from this point they can be best seen 30 degrees away from Leo, stretching across large sections of the sky. 

To view the Leonids from the UK, head outside after midnight on the night of 16 November.

Look up, keep an eye on the whole sky, and find as dark a location as you can!

You do not need to look in any particular direction. Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).

The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights.

As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient.

You can look for the Leonids on other nights as well. This year the shower runs between 6-30 November.

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic
Credit: National Space Centre

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Leonids!

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2020 include:

Geminids
Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 14/15 Dec 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour

Ursids
Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21/22 December 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour

Clear skies!