The Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight. Here's How to See its Shooting Stars.

The Leonid meteor shower will reach its peak the night of November 16 into the morning of November 17.

Leonid meteor shower 2021
Photo by Diana Robinson Photography via Getty Images
Photo by Diana Robinson Photography via Getty Images

The Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year, is slowly approaching. It'll hit in December. In the run-up to that display, there are a handful of smaller displays that provide a bit of a teaser for the big one. The last of those is the Leonid meteor shower, which hits its peak the night of November 16 into the morning of November 17.

Among the batch of showers that lead up to the Geminids, the Leonids are one of the more impressive in many years. Still, it's just a fraction of what we'll get in December or what we saw with August's Perseids. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office tells Thrillist that this year's Leonids are capable of producing around 10 meteors per hour. Though, other estimates put the number as high as 15.

It's not all good news, though. Cooke notes that the Leonids will be like many of this year's showers in that the moon will cause significant interference. The full moon arrives on November 19, and the light of the nearly full moon will obscure many of the meteors that might otherwise be visible. If you go out in the early morning hours, however, you'll be able to get a view of the night sky after the moon has set.

How to See the Leonid Meteor Shower

Cooke says that many of the meteors will be obscured by the moon. Still, it is possible to see meteors if you go out. Though, as notes, you may see some of the Leonid meteors, created from the debris of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, through December 2, when the meteor shower ends. Though, they won't be plentiful outside of the peak night. 

If you do go out to look for meteors, you'll want to head out after midnight local time or in the early morning hours before the sun starts to rise. Most meteor showers are at their best after midnight due to the positioning of the Earth. You'll also want to find a viewing location that doesn't have much light pollution. That can be tough since light pollution extends well beyond city limits. Nonetheless, it's a crucial component of having the best stargazing experience possible.

It's also best to lean back and take in as much of the sky as possible. During the Leonid meteor shower, the radiant point is in the constellation Leo. That means meteors that are streaking across the sky will appear to be coming from this point. Those shooting stars, however, can appear anywhere on the sky's dome. So, you don't have to look right at the radiant, especially since you won't see meteors from the Leonids streaking across the radiant.

It might not be the best year for the Leonids, but anytime you see a big meteor tear through the dark it's a lot of fun. Plus, it might be an opportunity to head out and find the spot from which you want to watch the Geminids in December. Just remember to bundle up and maybe pack a little hot chocolate.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.