By Michael Strasburger and Lauren Belcher | Gargoyle@flagler.edu
The annual Leonid meteor shower peaked early Nov. 17.
St. Augustine residents and all of North America had the chance to experience the concentrated showers before dawn. Although the shower peaked Tuesday, the shower is expected to continue until Nov. 21.
Barbara Blonder, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Natural Science at Flagler, explained the phenomenon. “The shower is the result of clouds of dust and ice left over from some big comet that passed through here,” Blonder said. “Here’s this cloud, sitting there, and we’re orbiting, and we go through it, and that is when these particles enter our atmosphere.”
The Leonid shower is a phenomenon that occurs annually in November and favors different locations on the globe for viewership each year. Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office offered predictions regarding the shower on NASA’s blog.
According to the blog, the Leonid meteor shower is expected to show 20 to 30 meteors per hour this year. “If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of meteors over North America followed by a more intense outburst over Asia. The phase of the Moon will be new, setting the stage for what could be one of the best Leonid showers in years.”
With the ample darkness provided by the new moon, the sky over Saint Augustine offers clear visuals of the Leonids, who are so named because they appear to radiate from the constellation, Leo.
NASA’s blog offers another reason why this shower is so visible. “This year, Mars happens to be passing by the Leonid radiant at the time of the shower. The Red Planet is almost twice as bright as a first magnitude star, so it makes an eye-catching companion for the Leonids,”
The best area to view a meteor shower would away from city lights in a rural area. The shower starts around 1 a.m. and lasts a few hours.