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Catch Leonids’ celestial treat twice this month

Prepare to get up early Thursday and stay up late Nov. 19 to cash in on the second celestial treat of the month.

The annual Leonid meteor shower will be at its best on two occasions, the first on Nov. 13 and the second on Nov. 19, according to NASA. The meteor show comes on the heels of last Saturday’s full lunar eclipse.

The Leonids aren’t supposed to be as spectacular in North America as they were the prior three years but, hey, it’s cheap entertainment.

The first peak is forecast to occur from 6 a.m. until sunrise at about 6:50 a.m., according to the Web site of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The second, better peak is expected between midnight and 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

The NASA Web site said the Leonids actually create greater meteor activity throughout the month of November. The peak traditionally comes on or around Nov. 18.

The moon is just a few days past full now so it could cause viewing problems on Thursday but it will be in its last quarter and cause less interference next week.

Some forecasts say to expect more than one meteor per minute. For the Nov. 19 peak, look to the east, toward the constellation of Leo, but don’t gaze at any one spot.

This particular meteor shower occurs because Earth passes through the orbit of the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which visits our solar system and dumps debris once every 33 years.

“Occasionally we’ll pass directly through a dust trail, which can spark a meteor storm resulting in thousands of meteors per hour. That’s what happened in 1999, 2001 and 2002,” explained the Farmers’ Almanac Web site. This year Earth will have a “glancing blow” rather than a direct hit of that debris field, thus the viewing won’t be as great.

For all the information you would possibly want to know ” including a demonstration of what you might see from our neck of the woods ” visit http://www.leonid.arc.nasa.gov/.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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