Leonid meteor shower
The fastest shooting stars of the year race towards Earth
By Karim Belbachir
November 15, 2023, 6:19 p.m.
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When the clouds clear over the weekend, it’s worth taking a look at the sky: the Leonids are shining bright in the night sky again. Then you can see up to 25 shooting stars every hour. ntv meteorologist Pfaff reveals where this is best in Germany.
The fastest shooting stars of the year will light up the sky over Germany next weekend. We are talking about the Leonids, a meteor shower whose orbit crosses the Earth every November. The meteors are remnants of comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle. This celestial body was first discovered in 1865.
Since the beginning of November, fragments of the comet enter the Earth’s atmosphere, where they burn up, forming fireballs. They reach their peak this Friday and Saturday. Then, every hour you can see between 10 and 25 shooting stars in the night sky.
What makes the weather a highlight?
But what good are the most beautiful shooting stars if the weather is not good? NTV meteorologist Carlo Pfaff does not have good news: “Things are not looking very good. On the night of November 17 there may be some gaps in the clouds in the North Sea and the Alps, but you have to be lucky. “On the night of the 18th there will be large spaces of clouds in a strip from the North Sea through Hesse to Lower Bavaria, in other regions things are still not looking good.” It takes patience and a little luck to be able to see the sprinters from the sky.
At its peak, only a maximum of 25 shooting stars can be seen per hour, but activity is subject to strong fluctuations. About every 33 years, as Comet Temple-Tuttle approaches Earth, the number increases dramatically. Every hour, between 300 and 500 meteors light up the night sky. However, this will not be the case again until 2033 and the following years. Occasionally there are even several thousand. If the Earth passes through an especially dense meteor shower cloud, more than 1,000 shooting stars may appear. However, this is not expected until 2094.
However, it is not only during the comet’s journey into the interior of the solar system that more shooting stars can be seen. Last year, for example, up to 250 meteors could be seen in the sky every hour at its peak. Meteorite researchers have calculated that in 1733 a large cloud of debris was separated from the main Leonid stream by the solar wind and gravitational effects. It could be seen in 2022.
The Leonids run towards the earth.
A special feature that distinguishes the Leonids is their high speed. They are considered the fastest shooting stars among the major meteor showers. They fly through the sky at an impressive speed of 71 kilometers per second (about 255,600 kilometers per hour). This speed of the Leonids is possible because they move in the opposite direction to the Earth’s orbit.
By the way, the Leonids owe their name to the constellation Leo, from whose direction they approach the Earth. The best visibility is from midnight to dawn. Sunrise is the best.