This week started out with the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, and is wrapping up with another celestial spectacle to round things out. The penultimate meteor shower of the year, the Leonid meteor shower, will take place between midnight and dawn on Friday, November 17, and Saturday, November 18.
According to Space.com, the annual meteor shower occurs when Earth's orbit crosses with that of the Tempel-Tuttle Comet, which travels around the sun every 33.3 years. The debris from the comet results in the shower, which, on good years, turns into a storm and produces as many as 1,000 meteors an hour. Although EarthSky predicts this year's shower will be slightly less lively than usual — with only 10 to 15 meteors per hour at its peak — there should be clear views for those who do venture out for a look. The new moon takes place on November 18, meaning that the bright light of a full moon, which can interfere with meteor shower viewings, won't be a factor this time around.
The name of the shower come from its location in the sky: The meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Leo, which you can identify by a backwards question mark in the sky, its signature alignment of stars.
Don't despair if the Leonids fail to light up the sky as much as you'd like. December is set to be a blockbuster month of astronomical events. First comes the sole supermoon of the year on December 3. Then, in the middle of the month, comes the final meteor shower of the year, the Geminids — early in the morning on December 14. That shower is expected to grace another clear sky, and will produce as many as 100 meteors every hour.
The only thing that threatens to outperform next month's celestial showstoppers are the New Year's Eve fireworks. Though, can you really compare man-made sparks in the sky with astronomical ones?