The Leonid Meteor Shower 2009
November 14, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

NASA's Fluxtimator helps calculate the meteor shower activity in your area. There will be one of the biggest meteor shower events of our lifetime, the Leonid Meteor shower of 2009. Start time: this Monday November 16, 2009 at 11:00pm EST. End Time: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 4:00am EST (best 2am to 4 am EST). An Atomic Age song in mp3 to celebrate: What Is A Shooting Star.

What Is A Shooting Star, written by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer and originally recorded by Tom Glazer for the 1959 album Space Songs.

National Geographic says, "you may see anywhere from 30 to 300 shooting stars an hour, depending.." NASA and Caltech say up to 500 an hour.

Quoting Orin K, a friendly, generously informative astronomy geek on FaceBook: "If you can see stars directly over head, you will see the brighter meteors only. It's best to get out of town or go to a larger park with trees

If you are interested in finding a USA or Canada dark sky site near you, check out this site: and an interesting Calif example observing spot off Rte 40- Find this on google maps with satellite and terrain views. Use the light pollution map choice to find dark areas near you. Use the sites by state or miles, mouse over pins for site name, dbl click to find next 48 hr forecast of seeing conditions. Black and blue pins are darker sites. Makes Maps, etc. Also, google and install - Cartes du Ciel - free software.

Also, well before you leave, check out ( when it is working! ) - the GOES 12 live view satellite 6 hr visible and infrared 6 hr animation to see the cloud flow patterns in your area of interest:

Get advice from local astronomy clubs. Take Lawn Chairs or thick foam pads, sleeping bags, layered clothing, wool caps, hand warmers, warm drinks. camera, 24mm lens at f2.8 with 20 second or more exposure, on tripod, and shutter cable trigger or 10 second count down shutter release. No binoculars or telescopes needed - just look up. The head stars of Constellation Leo will be rising after the Gemini Twins and the planet Mars in the northeast after midnight. Record brightness and direction of travel. Do clear nights Nov 16-19, but 11PM to dawn on 17 into 18 is best. Also think badly of ground fog, local light domes from cities, farmyard lights. As Ever, Orin, near Chicago."

What do the colors under the "light pollution" column mean?

Viewing suggestions in California l on the East Coast.

The most famous depiction of the 1833 Leonid meteor showers.

posted by nickyskye (18 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The "what is a shooting star" link only works if you manually re-enter the URL after it tells you it is forbidden. Just putting your cursor in the location bar then pressing enter works.
posted by idiopath at 4:46 PM on November 14, 2009

In 2002 the rap was that the 2002 shower would be the largest meteor shower for over a hundred years, and since I was up and writing anyways (nanowrimo, for fun) I took off to the darkest place here in Austin to see it. But a huge bank of clouds obscured most all of it -- damnit. I did see what was by far the largest, brightest meteor I've ever seen, like a flamiing tennis ball shooting by overhead, it was amazing. But only a few more before the sky was shut down.

I ought to head out to West Texas this year, out by that observatory, where it is deep dark and less chance of clouds. A long drive for a star show though ... I guess I'll just cross my fingers for this year, hope for no clouds -- wish me luck.

Thanx for the post.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:13 PM on November 14, 2009

Thanks for the fluxtimator, it seems inordinately hard to find decent predictions for anywhere in the Southern hemisphere.
posted by scodger at 6:32 PM on November 14, 2009

That 2002 shower was amazing! We had heavy fog near Purdue's campus but we drove for an hour or so west until it cleared up and found some random farm field. All eight of us were completely in awe. The numbers that year were in the tens of thousands per hour.

Just a bit more advice, try not to get frustrated at not seeing anything. Just relax, keep your head comfortably looking up and you'll be rewarded. On some of the bright ones keep an eye out for the trail left behind and watch it slowly fade away.
posted by Phantomx at 7:12 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I spend the whole night out in the country for the 1998 Leonid shower. I saw hundreds of meteors. Many were astonishingly bright. Many left trails that persisted for a minute or more. Many were AUDIBLE.

But that was in Texas. I live in Oregon now, and we're going to be socked in Monday night.
posted by neuron at 8:21 PM on November 14, 2009

From the Fluxtimator link:

Check if your time zone is correctly identified. In the U.S.A., Daylight Savings Time (DST) applies between the first Sunday of April and the last Sunday of October.

That hasn't been true for nearly 3 years now.

Also, the peak at your location may be on the Tue-Wed overnight, not the Mon-Tue overnight as seems to be implied by the FPP.

Finally, see the analysis that NASA has done and watch your brain explode.
posted by intermod at 10:09 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I happened to be out camping under the stars for the 1998 leonids. Bunch of photog students, a buddy of mine who was on their dorm floor, and me. We just kinda wrapped up in a tarp I happened to have in the truck...we're all lying there, highest point in missouri, and the meteors start. I swear, I'd only had a little moonshine at that point, but I wondered what it had been spiked with.

Battery acid? nope, the cosmos.
posted by notsnot at 10:47 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I spend the whole night out in the country for the 1998 Leonid shower. I saw hundreds of meteors. Many were astonishingly bright. Many left trails that persisted for a minute or more. Many were AUDIBLE.

I had the same experience, the same year, in rural Missouri. I'd seen some here and there, but it was the first shower I'd attended as a planned event - didn't plan to fear for my life. They were as colorful as any fireworks show I've ever seen, and it was nothing but explosions lighting up the grass we laid on in every color -- blew me away. I've tried to see a show like it ever since, bored people with tales of that one shower... A++ will try again this year. :)

Thanks so much for this link.
posted by hypersloth at 4:15 AM on November 15, 2009

oh hey notsnot! didn't read, had to post as soon as I read 98 leonids..
posted by hypersloth at 4:19 AM on November 15, 2009

Any way to find out the optimal place/time for viewing in Tallahassee, FL? Or is there a way to find out if there are any viewing parties going on?
posted by Miyomei at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2009

Miyomei, as I said in the comment following the main post, if you look on the Clear Dark Sky site, then click on Florida, you will find the places and parties.
posted by nickyskye at 8:13 AM on November 15, 2009

Be warned: the fluxtimator defaults to 2007, and appears to be made of fail (claims it'll peak at 5/hour in CA? wtf?).
posted by jewzilla at 1:21 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wonderful. It's going to be cloudy here tomorrow night. As is usual for these sorts of things.
The worst part is that it's been clear for weeks.
posted by wierdo at 5:07 PM on November 15, 2009

Saw one here in Virginia at dusk, a huge one! I'm glad it wasn't an hallucination.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2009

Yeah, the fluxtimator seems all kinds of wonky. I've gotten totally different values just by re-selecting the same menu item again.

Why are ALL astronomy related websites stuck in a bad vortex of 1999 web design?
posted by fontophilic at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2009

...never let it fade away :)
posted by vronsky at 4:18 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Uhm, the OP's post is exaggerated by a very wide margin.

Unless you live in Asia, the shower you see will just be "Ok". You're far better off waiting for the Geminids the night of Dec 13th and the morning of the 14th.
posted by yupislyr at 9:17 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I took my best shot at seeing this shower with a few friends. We drove into TX hill country, west of Fredericksburg, (on the advice of the clear sky map) found a clearing off of a rural road, and laid down some blankets from 3-5 am on Tuesday. I'd estimate we saw about 20-30 an hour, with a few really memorable bright gas trails that lasted for a few seconds.
posted by fontophilic at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2009

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