A meteor streaks across the night sky during the Leonid meteor shower in 2001. This annual shower will be seen nationwide this weekend.
(Photo: NASA, AFP)
Skywatchers, rejoice! The Leonid meteor shower, an annual mid-November treat, will be coming to a sky near you this weekend.
The peak of the shower will be visible both Saturday and Sunday nights, according to EarthSkymagazine. Unfortunately, the full moon (known as the "Beaver" moon) comes Sunday, which will wash out all but the very brightest meteors from view.
"This will be a major obstacle to viewing this sometimes-brilliant meteor shower," reports AccuWeather astronomy expert Mark Paquette.
At its peak, you'll probably be able to see about 10-15 meteors each hour. The best viewing time is typically between midnight and dawn, but according to Universe Today, the peak time is expected at about 5 a.m. ET Sunday.
The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they should be visible all the way across the sky.
Also known as "shooting stars," the meteors are actually leftover comet dust. As Earth's orbit takes it through sandy grains left in the tail of the comet Tempel-Tuttle, the tiny dust particles hit the atmosphere at 158,440 mph and turn white-hot, lighting up as they pass through the air.
Weatherwise, the best locations for viewing the show in the U.S. this weekend are expected to be in the Northeast and across the Southwest, according to AccuWeather.
In addition to the meteor shower and the full moon, there's also a comet out there -- known as ISON. According to NASA, it is visible to the naked eye, and can be seen about a half hour before sunrise as a fuzzy green blob in the southeastern skies.