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Leonid Meteor Shower 2012: Where to Watch in the Philadelphia Area

The Leonid meteor shower will peak on Nov. 17 and Nov. 20.

Keep your eyes on the sky during the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 17-20, because that's when the famous Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak. These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion and can vary in color.

"Many Leonids are also bright. Usually, the meteors are white or bluish-white, but in recent years some observers reported yellow-pink and copper-colored ones," according to Astronomy.com

Here's one of the 10 coolest things to know about the Leonids, from Space.com: "Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, it rounds the Sun and then goes back to the outer solar system. On each passage across Earth's orbit, Tempel-Tuttle lays down another trail of debris..."

The Leonids shower is so-called because the meteors seem to radiate outward from the constellation Leo. The starting point, called the radiant for obvious reasons, is found in the part of Leo that looks like a backwards question mark. 

The Leonids have been called a meteor "storm" (rather than just a "shower") some years, but reports say this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." The last Leonid storm, with thousands of shooting stars per hour, was in 2002.

report from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: there will be "two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20)."

What is a meteor? It's the streak of light that we see when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. The Leonids usually contain many bright meteors with trails that can be seen for several minutes. Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.

The shower began in mid-November. To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully. 

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch.

Priscilla Savary November 16, 2012 at 04:08 PM
The article said it was "where to watch". That seems to be left out of this otherwise interesting article. Come on, You can do better. Where are some good high points where the view to the east wil be open?
Kevin November 16, 2012 at 05:21 PM
There's a big open area along Route 23 in Valley Forge. It's a pretty popular spot to watch meteor showers. Unfortunately I don't think you'd have much luck in the city without roof access.
Kate Reilly November 18, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Thanks so much for the great information, as usual. We saw 3 meteors in the sky around 5:00 PM this evening. They had a pink color to them and the typical trails of smoke. Very cool! My husband pointed them out and I was proud to tell him that I already knew what they were, thanks to the Malvern Patch!

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