We've got a meteor shower coming up this week but don't expect a spectacular show. Despite a new moon this weekend the Leonid meteor shower will be modest with rates of 10 to 15 meteors per hour. You can see it Friday night from midnight to dawn Saturday morning Nov. 17 and 18.
The Leonids are seen when the Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. The tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth's atmosphere 80 miles up. Each Perseid hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light. They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth. It is inaccurate to call them "shooting stars" because they are bits of rubble.
The Leonids are named for the point in our sky from which they appear to radiate. This shower gets its name from the constellation Leo, because these meteors radiate outward from the stars of the Lion's mane.
If you are up late Friday or early Saturday look to the east. You don't need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible. These include street lights and house lights. You can lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too. The forecast looks good for Southern California. A weak Santa Ana event will clear the skies Friday night and temperatures will be comfortable.
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