The annual meteor storm falls this weekend. It is, however, a question whether the storm will be roaring or a light one instead. Stargazers will find out on Saturday night or the early morning on Sunday. According to prediction, the Leonid meteor shower this year will be less dramatic than previous times, but will still put up a worthy show.
Sometimes, the meteor shower has the energy to produce thousands of fireballs in a single minute, like the one in the year 1966. However, this year they are predicted to be seen at the rate of 20 per hour.
The timeline of the meteor shower is said to begin on late Friday night, while the peak will begin to build from there to the Saturday morning and going on till the Sunday morning.
The Leonids are the tiny pieces of comet Tempel-Tuttle. Since a comet is made up of pieces of rock, glued together by ice, the orbiting around the sun heats it up, causing vaporization or the shower of little bits of the comet.
As the Temple-Tuttle orbits the sun in an ellipse, the Earth crosses paths with the “trailing tail” of the vaporized falling pieces of the comet. This causes the annual meteor shower. While the storm every year is an average one, every 33 years the comet passes by the Earth at a rather close distance. These particular years see a more dramatic meteor shower because of the proximity of the debris left by the “dirty snowball”.
The last time the comet was close to Earth was in the year 1999. This year, however, only about 10 to 20 Leonids are expected to fall through, allowing the gazers to catch one falling approximately every five minutes.
While the peak of the 2012 Leonid meteor shower is tonight, November 17, a decreasing number of fireballs will be seen falling across the sky till the end of this month.
The Leonids result into one of the best shooting stars or fireballs to be observed by watchers, since they hit the plant Earth head-on. This is caused by the opposite orbit of the Leonids compared to that of the Earth. North America, especially the eastern US, is the best place to watch the meteor shower this year.