2018 Leonids

A meteor shower that produces fairly good observed rates for people who are able to observe late into the night.

Main Activity Dates Nov 14 -21
Peak Rates About 02h on Nov 18
Peak ZHR 10-15
Best Observed Rates Night of November 17–18
Visibility each night (UK) Only after the radiant rises at ~ 22:30 UT
Moonlight issues at Maximum Minor: first quarter is on Nov 15

Although some outliers can be detected by the end of the first week of November, Leonid activity only becomes obvious to visual observers around the start of the third week of the month and activity has dropped back to very low levels a week later.

Although the storm level enhancements seen in 1999, 2001 and 2002 will not recur for several decades, it should not be assumed that the Leonid rates are stuck at a fixed low level each year. Indeed, there have already been enhancements in rates due to encounters with lesser filaments, most recently in 2008 and 2009. Although some predictions were made for enhanced Leonid rates in 2015, nothing significantly unusual seemed to have occurred at the times suggested. No significant Leonid enhancements are predicted for 2017.

Peak rates in 2018 are expected to occur on during the night of Nov 17-18 (Sat-Sun). Moonlight will not be a major issue for the 2018 Leonid peak, as the Moon is just after first quarter and sets at about the time of maximum activity.

Of all the major meteor showers, it is the Leonids that produce the fastest (71 km/sec) meteors. This can make them tricky targets for video observers. Many of the brighter Leonids leave persistent trains.

Be aware that the Leonid radiant doesn’t rise until after 22:30 UT and so no Leonids will be seen during earlier meteor watches. Observed rates will usually increase as the night progresses and the radiant gets higher in the sky.

The chart below shows the position of the Leonid radiant, with the horizon marked as at around 02h local time.

Leonid radiant
Leonid radiant

Some late Taurid meteor activity will also be seen during Leonid meteor watches.