The Leonids are arriving! Lucky participants of our Baja kayaking tours in mid-November could see a once in a lifetime show. The Leonids are famous for not only spectacular meteor showers but also “meteor storms”. Most meteor showers fluctuate from year to year, but the Leonids are particularly variable. Some years they produce only 5 to 10 meteors per hour. But at the Leonids’ historical greatest in 1833, meteors were seen to fall “like snowflakes in a blizzard,” with estimated rates of several dozen per second!
The cloud-free skies of Baja California make it the perfect place to watch the Leonids. The most reliable peak of the shower should occur around 1:00am PST on the morning of November 17th. You could see 20-30 meteors per hour if conditions are good. Some bursts might ramp up to 100-200 per hour if we are lucky. It is also worth checking again just after sunset on the 17th, and both the night before and after the anticipated peak.
The shower’s radiant point is in Leo so the best chances will occur after this constellation rises above the horizon around local midnight. The number of visible meteors usually increases steadily from radiant-rise until Leo is highest, just as the sky is starting to get light.
The Leonids are remnants of Comet Temple-Tuttle. Whenever Earth passes through the orbital path that the comet took through out solar system we will see the debris rain into our atmosphere. Comet Temple-Tuttle is also responsible for our best summer meteor shower in August that we call the Perseids.
Another, less-known meteor shower is going on concurrently — the Taurids. They’re sparse but usually very bright. If you see a slow, bright meteor heading away from the Taurus, that’s a Taurid! You might also see a few sporadics that aren’t associated with any major shower just as can be seen on any random night.