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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Leonids Meteor Shower 2017 in Israel

The Leonids Meteor  Shower peaks on the night of  November 17 and early morning November 18. The night of November 16 should also be good. The peak number of meteors visible at maximum, the Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR), is 20 meteors per hour. This is when the radiant of the shower, in the constellation Leo, is overhead. The radiant is the point in the sky where the meteors seem to emanate from when a line is drawn back from their path of travel in the sky. These lines converge at a point in the sky called the radiant. For this meteor shower it is located in the constellation Leo, hence the name of the shower.

The ZHR is a predicted maximum. Most meteors during a shower are quite dim, so very few people every see the theoretical maximum for the shower. Even far more intense showers than the Leonids frequently show far fewer numbers than the peak rate, especially if you miss the exact maximum or do not have fully dark skies. There is no moon in the sky during the peak of the Leonids this year, so it should put on a nice show if you can get to a dark location.

Meteors are bits of rock from comets or asteroids that fall to earth at very high speeds and burn up in the earth's atmosphere. Most are quite tiny, about the size of a grain of sand. We see the bright light they make as they burn up from the heat of friction in the earth's atmosphere, not the body itself. The comet from which the Leonids result is Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

We will be having a star tour on Thursday night, November 16, 2017 at 9:30pm. We don't go out on Shabbat and won't be having a star tour on Saturday night November 18. November 19 and 20 should also have some shower activity, but it's difficult to tell how intense it will be. If you'd like to join us that would be delightful.

Status Update:
As of the evening of November 16, nothing major to report. Only a handful of meteors seen on star tours up through and including Thursday night, November 16.

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The radiant of the Leonids meteor shower lies within the boundary of the constellation Leo. You don't have to be looking directly at it to see shower members. They can appear anywhere in the sky. But since Leo will be rising in the East for much of the peak night, it's best to lie on the ground facing eastward. No optical aid is required. Meteor showers are entirely naked eye events. This is the sky at about 5:30am on November 18, 2017. It will look substantially the same the entire week of November 12, except for the moon which will get smaller and smaller and closer and closer to the horizon as the week progresses. It is new on November 19.

If you stay up until dawn the week of November 12 you will be treated to the sight of Venus and Jupiter in conjunction with each other and the waning crescent moon getting ever closer to them morning by morning. This is the sky at 5:31am on November 17, just before dawn, which is when Jupiter, Venus and the moon will start to become visible above the eastern horizon. What a treat  to see them all together with the peak of the Leonids meteor shower!

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