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 Nov 17
Peak ZHR 10-15
Best Observed Rates Night of November 17–18
Visibility each night (UK) Better after the radiant rises at ~ 22:30 UT
Moonlight issues at Maximum Severe: full Moon on Nov 12

Shower details – Radiant: 10:08 +21.6° – ZHR: 15 – Velocity: swift – 71km/sec – Parent Object: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle

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.

The Leonids produced meteor storms in 1999, 2001 and 2002 but it is not expected that this will recur until the 2030s. However it should not be assumed that the Leonid rates are stuck at a fixed low level each year. There are often enhancements due to encounters with lesser filaments, most recently in 2008 and 2009. That said, nothing is expected for 2019.

Peak rates are expected to occur on during the night of Nov 17-18 (Sat-Sun).

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 fewer 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.