Your Night Sky for Nov. 11, 2020


Comet Temple Tuttle Leonid Meteors

Since the New Moon is Nov. 15, this gives us a great opportunity to watch the Leonid Meteor Shower which peaks Nov. 17. Unfortunately, this is another meteor shower that we can't view until after midnight. The peak time will be from 3-5 a.m. while the sky is still dark. The only reason for this is that the constellation they appear to originate from doesn't rise until after midnight.

Meteor Showers are named for the constellation they appear from. So that is why they're called the Leonids since they appear in the constellation Leo the Lion. But they actually originate from Comet 55P/Temple Tuttle. There are peak times, but this year isn't one of them, so we'll only see 10-15 per hour.

Earth crosses the orbital path of this comet every year. When that happens, the debris from this comet burns up in our atmosphere to create the meteor shower. Only when the comet is close to us does a massive meteor storm occur. The last time we had an outburst was 2002 when 3,500 meteors an hour blazed across the sky. That was because they hit our atmosphere so fast that they produced fireballs more than any other meteor shower.

Unfortunately that won't happen again until 2099 when Earth passes through a dense strand of debris from the comet. However, around 100 meteors per hour are expected when the comet returns in 2031, and again in 2064. Before then we will only see 10-15 per hour. Fortunately 2031 is only 11 years from now.

The good thing now is that the moon won't interfere with any of our viewing. This time of year, the constellation Leo the Lion doesn't rise after midnight. It will slowly come up in the east and gradually move to the south. In a few more months it will be visible in the evening. It has 12 stars, and will rise early in March and April when the viewing of it will be wonderful.

When you look at the sky in the evening you will notice that Saturn is now to the upper left of Jupiter and is becoming dimmer. They're getting close to each other and will meet Nov. 21. This won't happen again until November 2040.

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