By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer
BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s an astronomical riddle for you. What do the following have in common: The Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, the International Space Station, and the Leonid Meteor Shower? Give up? You can see them all in our sky on Friday! How cool!
We’ve got a great night ahead for astronomy lovers! A planetary lineup followed by the annual Leonid Meteor shower!
After a brisk and chilly Friday, our first astronomical event comes about 30 minutes after sunset.
Get a clear view of the southwestern sky and you will see two more planets. Mercury will be fairly low on the horizon and Saturn will be slightly above and to the left. If you extend your arm fully and make a fist, Mercury and Saturn will be about a “fist-length” apart.
Viewing Conditions: Clear sky, no moonlight… Excellent! “Viewabililty rating of 10 out of 10!
LATE FRIDAY NIGHT METEOR SHOW
The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks overnight Friday night and early on Saturday.
The Leonids are a mid-November tradition and have been responsible for some of the most amazing meteor shows in past years. In fact, in the best years, Leonid meteors have been known to peak at several tens of thousands per hour! Sadly, we are not expecting anything like that this year, but instead, something much more modest (about 10 to 20 per hour).
The Leonids are actually relatively small pieces of dust and debris left behind from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Tempel-Tuttle has an orbit taking it around the sun every 33.3 years. Each November, Earth’s orbit crosses the path of debris left by the comet and many of the little pieces (typically the size of a grain of sand) ignite into fireballs as they hit our atmosphere.
How do you see the Leonids? It is very simple. Find a location as far away from artificial light as possible and with as much open sky as possible. Lay back as flat as you can and look up. And be patient! Plan on spending an hour or two (make sure you bundle up) if you want to see a decent show.
Viewing conditions: Clear sky early, some high, thin clouds by early Saturday morning, no moonlight! Viewability rating: 9 out of 10.