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The Leonids Meteor Shower

A burst of 1999 Leonid meteors as seen at 38,000 feet from Leonid Multi Instrument Aircraft Campaign (Leonid MAC) with 50 mm camera. Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/ISAS/Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano

The Leonids Meteor is one of the 30 yearly meteor showers occurring throughout the entirety of November and into the beginning of December. It is called the Leonids meteor shower as it can be seen near the constellation Leo. This year the shower is expected to peak this Friday the 17th into the morning of the 18th with 10 to 15 meteors an hour, which is one every 4 to 6 minutes. The main attraction of this meteor shower is its intense peak every 33 years, sadly this is not one of those years with the next one occurring in 2035. During the 33-year peak, you can expect to see upwards of 1000 meteors an hour. The moon during the peak will be a waxing crescent meaning there will only be a small sliver of the moon visible allowing for much better viewing of the meteor shower. According to NASA the best way to view the Leonid meteor shower is to find a location away from the city lights, wear something warm and maybe bring a sleeping bag, or blanket to keep warm as it will be cold, and lay down flat in order to view the most amount of sky as possible. For this meteor shower, the meteors actually come from a comet. The comet emits dust and debris as it passes around the sun and when the earth passes through these particle trails the pieces of the comet burn up as they enter earth's atmosphere. The comet that emits these is called 55P/Tempel-Tuttle after William Tempel who discovered it on December 19th, 1865. He was at the Marseilles Observatory in France where he found the comet in the northern sky near the star Beta Ursae Minoris aslo known as Kochab. The word of a new comet discovery spread throughout Europe, 17 days after William Tempel found the comet but before word of it reached the United States, Horace Tuttle of Harvard College Observatory found the comet on January 5, 1866. Because Horace Tuttle discovered the comet so close to when William Tempel did both of their names were added to the name of the comet. Soon after the discovery of 55P/Tempel-Tuttle scientists calculated that the comet is on a 33.17 year orbit and also discovered that the meteor showers that occur every November were a result of this comet. Because the comet is on a 33 year cycle around the sun you are only able to see it once every 33 years. They were able to see it in 1899, but in 1932 when it returned again the astronomers were using an instrument with such a small field of view that they missed it and had to wait another 33 years to try and find it again. The astronomers were able to find it again in 1965 and again in 1998, in that year the comet was so bright that you were able to see it with just a pair of binoculars. Even though this isn’t one of the years that the comet will be visible it is still worth going out see the meteor shower. Going out to see the meteor shower this Friday or Saturday is a perfect way to start your thanksgiving break.


Byrd, Deborah. “Leonid Meteor Shower: All You Need to Know in 2023.” EarthSky, November 14, 2023.

Dobrijevic, Daisy. “Leonid Meteor Shower 2023: When, Where & How to See It.”, November 3, 2022.

“Leonids - NASA Science.” NASA, 2023.

Silverang, Brooke. “Leonid Meteor Shower: When to See It.” WPBF, November 13, 2023.!-,The%20Leonid%20meteor%20shower%20peaks%20the%20night%20of%20November%2017th,debris%20left%20by%20a%20comet.


Owen Dustin is a sophomore at Poudre High School. This is his first year writing for the Poudre Press. At school, he is on the Alpine Robotics team and the unified flag football team. Outside of school he likes to mountain bike, play video games, and hang out with friends.


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