All year long as the Earth revolves around the sun, it passes through streams of cosmic debris. The resulting meteor showers can illuminate the night sky from dusk to dawn and if you are lucky you may be able to catch a glimpse.
The next shower you can see is Leonidas. Active between November 6 and 30, the show airs around Sunday night until Monday morning or November 17-18.
Leonidas are one of the brightest meteor showers and every few decades produce a meteor shower where more than 1,000 meteors can be seen. Cross your fingers for a little luck – the last time the Leonids were so strong was in 2002. Its parent comet is called the comet temple / tatl and it orbits the sun every 33 years.
Where the meteor showers come from
If you spot a meteor shower, what you usually see is icy remnants of ice comets falling into the Earth's atmosphere. Comets are like dirty snowballs: as they travel through the Solar System, they leave behind a dusty trail of rocks and ice lying in space long after they leave. As the Earth passes through these cascades of comet debris, debris – which may be like sand – penetrates the sky at burst speeds, creating a heavenly firework. General rule of thumb with meteor showers: You never see the Earth cross in the remnants of the latest comet orbit. Instead, the burning pieces come from previous additions. For example, during the meteor shower in Perseid you see meteors being ejected from the moment when its parent comet, the Swift-Tutl comet, visited it in 1862 or earlier, not since its most recent passage in 1992.
That's because it takes time for the comet's orbit to descend to a point where it intersects with Earth's orbit, according to Bill Cook, an astronomer at NASA's Office of the Environment for Meteors.
The best way to see a meteor shower is to reach a location that has a clear view of the entire night sky. Ideally, it would be somewhere with dark skies, away from city lights and traffic. To increase your chances of catching a show, look for a place that offers a wide, unobstructed view.
Bits and pieces of meteor showers are visible for a certain amount of time, but they really do roll out visibly from dusk to dawn in a matter of days. These days, when the Earth's orbit passes through the densest part of the cosmic stream. Meteor showers can vary at peak times, with some reaching a maximum of just a few hours and others for several nights. Showers tend to be most visible after midnight and before dawn.
It is best to use the naked eye to spot a meteor shower. Binoculars or telescopes tend to limit your field of vision. You may need to spend about half an hour in the dark to let your eyes get used to the dim light. Arguments should be warned that the moon and weather can blur the emissions. But if that happens, there are usually meteoric frescoes like those of NASA and the Solo Web Telescope.