Leonids meteor shower 2021: UK stargazers can see up to 15 shooting stars per hour

Supermoon Meteors and 7 More Can't-Miss Sky Events in December (Getty) Mily Way view during the perseids meteor shower august 2013 in the Fontainebleau forest
The meteors will be falling later this week (Getty)

The Leonids meteor shower is set to reach its peak above the UK this week, giving stargazers ample opportunity to witness a celestial show.

The annual shower should provide up to 15 meteors an hour (some years, there are up to 20) to look out for, providing the skies are clear.

It occurs each year in November as debris from the Tempel-Tuttle comet come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere.

There are many meteor showers during the year, but the Leonids has the claim to fame of being the fastest. Nasa estimates that shooting stars falling during the Leonids are coming in hot at 44 miles per second – quicker than any other shower in the astronomy calendar.

Tempel-Tuttle is a small comet – its nucleus measures only about 2.24 miles (3.6 km) across, comparable in size to the island of Manhattan.

The name Leonids comes from the point in the sky where the meteor shower appears to come from – right next to the constellation of Leo.

Leonids meteor shower 2021: When does it peak above the UK?

A meteor during the Perseid meteor shower seen over Happisburgh lighthouse, Norfolk. Sky gazers are set to be treated to a light display next week as Earth passes through debris left behind by a comet. Issue date: Friday August 6, 2021. PA Photo. It is predicted the peak of the Perseid meteor shower will be on the night of August 12 into the early hours of August 13 when the sky is at its darkest. See PA story SCIENCE Perseids. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
A meteor seen over Happisburgh lighthouse, Norfolk. (Credits: PA)

This year, the peak nights of the meteor shower fall on Wednesday night to Thursday night this week.

That’s November 17 and November 18.

Unfortunately, the viewing conditions may not be ideal.

According to the Met Office, the forecast is fairly cloudy in most parts of the UK for those nights.

So you may have to cross your fingers and hope for a little bit of luck.

Leonids meteor shower 2021: When is the best time to see the meteors?

A man watches a meteor during the Geminid meteor shower over Brimham Rocks, a collection of balancing rock formations in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 15, 2020. The Geminid meteor shower is active between 4th and 17th of December and is regarded as one of the most reliable of the year with as many as 70 meteors an hour. Brimham Rocks rocks began forming roughly 320 million years ago, when water, grit, and sand washed down from Scotland and Norway. However, standing nearly 30 feet tall the bizarre formations that can be seen today were created as the millstone grit was eroded during the last glacial period. See PA story SCIENCE Geminid. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
A man watches a meteor during the Geminid meteor shower over Brimham Rocks (Credits: PA)

For the best chance of spotting the meteors, you’ll want the sky to be as dark as possible.

Between midnight and dawn on the morning of Thursday, November 18 should be your best time.

Sadly, as well as cloud cover, we will need to content with a bright moon that will cause glare and stop you seeing the fainter meteors.

Leonids meteor shower 2021: How can I see the meteor shower?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography/REX/Shutterstock (5828255b) Picture shows the Perseid meteor shower over Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset,in the early hour of Friday August 12th. The Perseid meteor shower takes place each year through July and August and is the result of particles falling from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years and was first seen in 1862. The trail of particles forms meteors, or shooting stars as they are also known, which heat up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere creating tails of light across the sky. These specific meteors travel at a speed of 132,000 miles per hour and are called Perseids due to the way in which they appear to streak away from the Perseus Constellation Perseid meteor shower - 13 Aug 2016
Getting away from light pollution will help you spot the meteors when they arrive (Shutterstock)

Try to give yourself ten minutes to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Stay relaxed and your eyes should pick up the movement of the meteors as they flash across the sky.

Orient yourself with your feet towards east, lie flat on your back, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.

Royal Museums Greenwich, an organisation which manages the Royal Observatory, explains: ‘The Leonids are usually one of the more prolific annual meteor showers, with fast, bright meteors associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

‘As the comet follows its path around the sun, it leaves a path of tiny debris. The cometary debris enters our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second, vaporising and causing the streaks of light we call meteors.’

‘The Leonids meteor shower was given its name because its radiant – the point in the sky where the meteors seem to come from – is within the Leo constellation.’

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