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Leonid Meteor Shower 2012: Where to Watch in Burke?

The Leonid meteor shower will peak in the early pre-dawn hours Saturday morning and next Tuesday morning.

Know a great place to gaze at the stars in Burke?

Keep your eyes on the sky after midnight Friday — in Saturday morning's pre-dawn hours — because the famous Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak then. These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion and can vary in color.

Space.com's Joe Rao says to expect about 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

"Many Leonids are also bright. Usually, the meteors are white or bluish-white, but in recent years some observers reported yellow-pink and copper-colored ones," according to Astronomy.com

Here's one of the 10 coolest things to know about the Leonids, from Space.com: "Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, it rounds the Sun and then goes back to the outer solar system. On each passage across Earth's orbit, Tempel-Tuttle lays down another trail of debris..."

This shower is called the Leonids shower because the meteors seem to come from a point in the constellation Leo. But they are really much closer to Earth than those stars are. The starting point, called the radiant, is found in the part of Leo that looks to be a backwards question mark. 

The Leonids have been called a meteor "storm" (rather than just a "shower") some years, but reports say this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." The last Leonid storm, with thousands of shooting stars per hour, was in 2002.

A report from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: there will be "two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20)."

What is a meteor? It's the streak of light that we see when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. The Leonids usually contain many bright meteors with trails that can be seen for several minutes. Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.

The shower began in mid-November. To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully. 

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. The weather forecast was for mostly cloudy skies Friday night but clear skies Saturday morning.

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