The first meteor shower of 2019 is set to kick off this week, and when it does, it will be jam-packed with brilliant streaks that will dance across the sky like magic.
A favorable orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter allows for a meteor shower, also known as the Leonids, to appear in September and December each year.
Leonids are responsible for the famous meteor shower’s name: the shower’s famous Meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of approximately 40,000 mph and burn up in the atmosphere.
“But like last year’s meteor shower, which was the best in 13 years, this year’s shower will be a little better than average,” Chris MacNabb, astrophysicist with NASA’s James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Observatory in Hawaii, said.
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This year, the meteor shower will peak between Dec. 2-3, with rates averaging about 20 to 25 meteors per hour, MacNabb added.
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Given that the date falls closest to midnight and Earth’s rotational tilt of 90 degrees means the Earth’s atmosphere is typically denser and denser as it travels to and from the sun, the ionization of the atmosphere turns hundreds of meteors into streaks of light, MacNabb said.
“The most visible Leonids shower are the Halley’s Comet meteors and these meteors will be a little harder to find because they tend to move a bit faster and we have a wider horizon,” he added.
Some clever stargazers have found hiding opportunities on planets where meteors seem to appear just before a planet rotates away from the sun.
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The National Park Service recommends that people away from city lights get away from city lights and just let their eyes adjust to starry sky for a few minutes or just take a few minutes to gaze up at the sky.
Lights will also be weaker on Friday, Dec. 28, the International Meteor Organization says.
MacNabb recommends peaking around 2 a.m. ET.
More by Rasha Mubarak, David Edwards and Jenna Freeman.