Perhaps one of the most interesting cosmic events is happening this week: the Leonid meteor shower.
According to scientists, 2022 is a favorable year to observe this phenomenon because the Moon is in its waning serpent phase and will not interfere much with its observation. The maximum stage of the meteor shower will be observed on the night of November 17 to 18.
A meteor shower occurs when the Earth, in its orbit around the Sun, encounters a group of meteorites, usually caused by comets, and the latter, penetrating the Earth's atmosphere at high speed, burn up and leave trails resembling 'shooting stars,' which can be up to several appearances in the sky per second.
Leonid shower is observed annually from November 8 to 22. Its center is located in the direction of the constellation of Leo, where the name of the flow came from.
Leonid meteorites are fragments of comet Tempel-Tuttle in space, through which the Earth passes. Tempel-Tuttle passes through the interior of the solar system at intervals of 33.25 years.
Each time the comet passes, it leaves behind a trail of dust. According to the Byurakan Observatory, Leonid has a fairly high velocity, on average 72 km/s, and leaves greenish trails in the sky. They can be up to 9 mm in size and weigh up to 85 grams.
According to Space.com, this year's starburst will be best seen on Nov. 18. More than 10 Leonids meteors are expected to be seen in a single hour.
Sometimes it can happen that dust concentrates more than usual, which can cause a meteor storm that can result in thousands of meteors per hour. This is exactly what happened in 1999, 2001, and 2002. After Comet Tempel-Tuttle passed the Sun in 1998, the Leonid meteors put on their best "show" in those years.
Since then, the comet and its dense trail of dust have retreated far beyond Earth's orbit and returned to the outer regions of the solar system. Comet Tempel-Tuttle reached the last part of its elliptical path near Uranus' orbit in 2014. As a result, Leonid's activity has been quite low in recent years. Since then, the comet has turned around and is now slowly approaching the inner solar system. It is expected to get as close to the Sun as possible in 2031.
According to Canadian scientists, the best moment of this year's Leonid eclipse will occur on November 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (04:00 a.m. Yerevan Night Time). This is when Earth will pass closest to the comet's orbit, and when our planet is likely to collide with the comet's debris. This period is very favorable for observing the star shower from Central and Western Europe and Western Asia.
It will also be visible from Armenia. However, at this time star rain will not be visible to residents of North America, they will have to wait until midnight to see it.
According to calculations by Russian and Japanese scientists Mikhail Maslov and Mikiya Sato, starry shower will reach its peak on November 19 at 01:00-01:25 EST (10:00-10:25 YEREVAN time). This is the best time in terms of stargazing for North Americans.
The Leonidas star shower is also possible on November 21 at 15:00 UT (7:00 p.m. Yerevan time), which will be best to observe from Hawaii and East Asia.
The annual Leonids meteor shower is caused by the Earth passing through debris left over from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, discovered in 1866.
Although the Leonids are not as intense in "normal" years, there is a dramatic increase in the number of meteors every 33.25 years when the Earth passes through the center of the meteor shower. At this time, the Leonid shower is at its most abundant - over 1,000 (sometimes up to 3,000) per hour.
Such a storm was observed in 1999 and continued through 2000-2002, with the next one expected in 2032. However, increases in growth (up to 100-150 per hour) can be observed in other years as well.
The Leonid meteor shower was discovered in 1833 on the night of November 12 to 13. And this day is considered the birth of meteor astronomy.
Astronomers have found that Leonid meteor showers existed centuries ago (starting in the sixth century), but at the time it was not fully understood and studied.
As with all celestial bodies and phenomena, all this is best observed away from populated areas, as city lights make observation extremely difficult.