The LEONID METEOR SHOWER rapidly approaches us on Sunday night/ Monday morning, Nov 16/17, when the Earth passes through dust and ice particles from comet Tempel-Tuttle. Meteor counts are estimated at around 15 per hour this year (or one meteor every 4 minutes). The crescent Moon is below the Eastern horizon until around 1am, so the skies will be fairly dark. The Leonid meteors are travelling swiftly at 71 km/s which can create fast green ionization trails 70 to 120km high in the upper atmosphere.
Leo, the meteor radiant, rises about midnight (can you see the backwards question mark framing the head and mane of Leo the Lion in the constellation photo above, with Regulus as the dot?). Big bright Jupiter is a white dot in front of Leo (not shown here). The higher Leo rises, the more meteors to be seen. Thus, the best time is after midnight until about 6am. The actual peak is Monday Nov 17 at 22:00 hr universal time or (minus 7) that’s 3pm Mountain Standard Time, or 2pm Pacific.
The crescent Moon rises at 1am, just under the belly of Leo, which gives a glow which drowns out the fainter meteors.
Here’s some notes from the IAU, The International Astronomical Union:
LEONID METEORS 2014
S. Nakano, Sumoto, Japan; and D. Asher, Armagh Observatory, write that it will be scientifically interesting to see if two enhanced streams of Leonid meteors can be detected — both predicted to be at low levels if observable — around Nov. 17.06-17.07 UT (due to material ejected from comet 55P in 1833 and seen in 1867, predicted by Nakano and Y. Kosai) and Nov. 21.3-21.4 (material from 1567, predicted by M. Maslov and J. Vaubaillon). The main stream of Leonid meteors is expected to peak around Nov. 17.9 (with full-width at half-maximum of a couple of days, via Maslov).
(C) Copyright 2014 CBAT 2014 November 16 (CBET 4016) Daniel W. E. Green
Chance of seeing NORTHERN LIGHTS:
The NOAA spaceweather site mentions there was a medium M3 solar flare on Nov 15, and predicts some Northern Light activity on Nov 15, dying down by the 17. So you may also see the Aurora to the North if you’re at higher latitudes. The photo below shows a red/green Aurora spike seen against the Big Dipper stars, with the Skookumchuck Pulp Mill amber lights illuminating a plume of steam drifting up from it’s stacks, glowing in the woodsmoke low behind the tree. Taken on Saturday night, Nov 15, from Wasa BC (in South-eastern BC).
Like meteors, the aurora occurs in the upper atmosphere, where gas molecules are hit by electrons from the Sun. The lower edge at 80 to 100 km is where nitrogen atoms glow crimson; midway between 100 and 200km, oxygen gas glows green, and nitrogen glows blue; and above that from 100 to 250 km, oxygen gas glows a dim red.