TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Nocturnal Kansans willing to withstand the cold will have the opportunity to see a meteor shower on Thursday night and Friday morning.
KSNT spoke with Brenda Culbertson, a Solar System Ambassador with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), about the upcoming Leonid Meteor shower. Appearing annually, this meteor shower is so named because the meteors seem to come from a single point, called the radiant, originating in the constellation Leo.
The time to view the meteor shower in Kansas will be during the nighttime hours of Nov. 17 and the early morning hours of Nov. 18, according to Culbertson. The shower will peak at 5 a.m. CST when Leo is the highest in the sky for Northeast Kansas. However, meteors can still be seen at night at any time from Nov. 6 to Nov. 30.
While viewers may be able to catch sight of the brighter meteors from within city limits, it is best to seek a location away from bright lights to spot the fainter meteors, Culbertson said.
“From a dark location, observers should expect to see up to 15 meteors per hour, but realistically, fewer should be expected,” Culbertson said. “Some will be too faint for people to notice.”
KSNT’s own Meteorologist Matt Miller gave an update on expected viewing conditions for the shower.
“The cloud cover will be an issue for most areas in the middle of the night, but clouds will start to clear from north to south toward morning,” Miller said. “So, the best odds of seeing the meteors will be over the northern counties of the area.”
Culbertson said the meteors come from a comet called Tempel-Tuttle. This comet orbits the sun every 33 years and is named after Ernst Tempel and Horace Tuttle, who spotted it in 1865, according to NASA.
Culbertson and NASA recommend the following advice for viewers:
- To find the constellation Leo, look for a backward question mark.
- Find an area well away from city/streetlights.
- Be prepared for winter temperatures.
- Orient yourself with your feet toward the east, lie flat on your back and look up.
- Give your eyes around 30 minutes to adapt to the dark.
The Leonid Meteor shower produces bright but also colorful meteors that travel quickly across the sky, according to NASA. The meteors travel at speeds of 44 miles per second and are considered to be some of the fastest meteors.
NASA reports that every 33 years, viewers can see a Leonid storm which can peak with hundreds to thousands of meteors per hour, depending on one’s location. A storm recorded in 1966 saw thousands of meteors per minute streaking across the sky with such frequency that it was likened to rain. The last Leonid storm was recorded in 2002.
For more information on the upcoming shower, click here.