The Leonid meteor shower is a popular annual shower.

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Leonid meteors can typically be seen between 10–20 November. They are fast meteors, associated with the debris stream of comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.

The best time to see the 2022 Leonid meteor shower will be on the nights of 17/18 and 18/19 November.

Leonid meteors are swift, entering the atmosphere at 77km/s.

The radiant - the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to emanate - is in the curved portion of the Sickle asterism in the Leo constellation, the pattern that is meant to represent the Lion’s head.

Find out when the next meteor shower is visible or discover what causes meteor showers

Chart showing the position of the radiant of the Leonid meteor shower 2022
Look to the Sickle asterism in Leo for the radiant of the Leonids. Credit: Pete Lawrence

How many Leonid meteors will we see?

The Leonid meteor shower is a popular meteor shower, despite its relatively low peak Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 15 meteors per hour.

This value is for optimal viewing conditions with the shower radiant directly overhead.

As conditions aren’t optimal in 2022 and the radiant achieves a maximum altitude of just 58° under dark sky conditions, the visual rate – the number you’ll actually see – will be lower than this.

Leo constellation. Credit: Credit: CEDIC Team + Hubl Bernard / CCDGuide.com
Leo constellation. Credit: Credit: CEDIC Team + Hubl Bernard / CCDGuide.com

The shower’s popularity is in part due to a periodic increase in its ZHR every 33 years.

At such times the Leonids may produce a storm-level display of 1,000–100,000 meteors per hour.

The next interesting period begins around 2032–2033, so we are in between ‘storms’ at present.

However, a prediction has been made for a moderate ZHR enhancement during the Leonid meteor shower 2022, between 05:50 UT and 06:10 UT on the morning of 19 November, as the sky is brightening.

Brighter than average meteors are also predicted. A 33%-lit waning crescent Moon in southeast Leo will interfere somewhat on the morning of 18 November.

The Sickle asterism is found in the constellation Leo. Credit: CEDIC Team + Hubl Bernard / CCDGuide.com
The Sickle asterism is found in the constellation Leo. Credit: CEDIC Team + Hubl Bernard / CCDGuide.com

How to see a Leonid meteor

Leonid meteors are best observed after midnight.

And even when the Moon isn't playing ball, meteor showers make for a great excuse to get out and get looking up at the night sky.

For more on this, read our guide on what to see in the night sky in autumn.

Watching a meteor shower doesn't require any fancy equipment: just clear, dark skies, warm clothing and some good company. Credit: Anthony Sabatino / EyeEm / Getty Images
Watching a meteor shower doesn't require any fancy equipment: just clear, dark skies, warm clothing and some good company. Credit: Anthony Sabatino / EyeEm / Getty Images

To see a Leonid meteor, find a place away from the light pollution of towns and cities (providing it is safe to do so) and locate the radiant in the night sky (use a star chart or smartphone astronomy app if need be).

You don't need a telescope or binoculars to see a meteor shower: in fact these would narrow your field of view. Naked-eye observing is best, but give your eyes about 30 minutes or so to properly dark-adapt and you will be able to see more.

There are many smartphone astronomy apps available to help you navigate the night sky, including many that are free.
There are many smartphone astronomy apps available to help you find your way around the night sky, including many that are free. Just don't forget to put it on red light mode!

This means no looking at your phone or using a torch, as doing so will ruin your dark adapted vision.

If you really need to do either, make sure your phone is set to red light mode (if you're an iPhone user, find out how to turn your iPhone screen red) or use a red light torch.

If possible, bring a reclining chair to prevent neck ache from spending long periods of time looking up, and wrap up warm.

It is winter after all, and meteor observing involves a lot of standing still in open spaces.

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This guide originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.