It’s raining shooting stars over Germany: the highlight of the Leonids today

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From: Magdalena von Zumbusch


The Leonids can be seen again in November this year. © Matthias Balk/dpa

Every year between 6 and 18 November there is a special spectacle at night: the Leonid shooting stars – this year there will be a lot of them.

Munich – On summer evenings, many people like to spend time with the starry sky. What most people don’t know: late autumn also has a lot to offer. In November every year, the so-called Leonid shooting stars can be seen, as well as the neighborhood newspaper reported.

Video: Leonid showers in November: Here you can see the shooting stars

Leonids: what is behind the streams of shooting stars?

There are shooting stars all year round, Ralf Greiner of the Kuffner Observatory in Vienna reports on their website. However, their frequency varies greatly. When they move across the night sky particularly frequently, shooting star streams – this includes the Perseids in August and the Leonids – are seen in November.

Essentially, these are meteors, the Kuffner Observatory continues on its website. Laymen often see it as large chunks of rock hurtling through space. But these are often small particles that enter the Earth’s atmosphere from space and burn up there. According to the Kuffner Observatory, the particles are sometimes only the size of a pinhead, but travel at a speed of ten to 70 kilometers per second. As soon as a meteor hits the ground, astronomers speak of a meteorite.

As a rule, however, the meteors burn up on their way through the Earth’s atmosphere and this luminous phenomenon is known as a shooting star. Like shooting stars, the Leonids are particles that burn up as they enter our atmosphere.

Incidentally, the name of the Leonids was not chosen by chance: they are named after an astronomical constellation – the lion (Latin: Leo) – from whose head they seem to shoot into the sky (at least from our perspective from Earth). ).

The Leonid Stream is not always visible with the same intensity, explains Greiner of the Kuffner Observatory. For the Leonid stream, he recognized Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle as the originating comet. This comet has an orbital period of 33 years and crosses the earth in mid-November. Every 33 years it becomes entangled in a dense cloud of debris and there are particularly strong streams of shooting stars.

In 2022, the meteor shower should be particularly intense: about 200 shooting stars per hour should be observed. That is more than in previous years, but in previous decades there were years that cannot be compared: in the morning hours of November 17, 1966, for example, a meteor storm with 140,000 shooting stars could be admired in one hour in America.

Observing Shooting Stars: The night of November 17 regularly has the most Leonids to offer

The Leonids are expected between November 6 and November 18 (or late November at the latest). The peak of the Leonids would be on the night of November 17 this year, as is usually the case, as evidenced by Hans-Ulrich Keller’s book “Kosmos Himmelsjahr 2022” (the book is published annually on current predictions).

The meteors are easier to observe in the second half of the night, around 3 am the chance is greatest. That’s because the shooting star’s observers then look in Earth’s “direction of travel,” as the Kuffner Observatory explains. As a result, the meteor shower meets the sky watchers and is therefore easier to see. However, the prediction of shooting stars is just like the weather forecast: not everything can be predicted exactly.

Fans of shooting stars used to have to inspect the sky with star charts. Nowadays there are apps for that, such as Google Sky Map, Star Walk 2 or the Star Atlas. This can be used to find the constellation Leo, which must then be kept in view to see the Leonids.

Of course, the shooting stars are most clearly seen from a dark place, because light pollution dilutes the phenomenon. Hills or even mountains are ideal. Then patience is required: the eyes need a certain amount of time to get used to the darkness. Attention is also important: the Leonids are very fast, so they can only be seen for a short time.

Have you seen one yet? Share it with us.

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