Look up: Leonid meteor shower peaks early Friday morning

The annual "Leonid meteor shower" will peak early Friday morning with a rarity... mostly clear sky for much of Alaska.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:30 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - All the ingredients are in place for what could be a spectacular light show in the pre-dawn hours of Friday and Saturday mornings in the form of the Leonid meteors shooting across the sky brightly, boldly — and this year, quite frequently.

On average, the peak of the Leonid meteor shower produces 15 shooting stars an hour, each traveling at 44 miles per second, or 158,000 miles per hour. That’s the fastest earth encounters every year.

The meteors are the size of tiny peas consisting of sand-like dust and debris crumbling off of the named 55p/Tempel-Tuttle.

However, every 33 years a “storm” of shooting stars occurs, producing at least 1,000 meteors per hour soaring across the sky.

The last time that occurred was in 2002, which puts the next higher frequency maximum around the year 2035. Having just crossed the halfway mark of the cycle in 2019, the mathematical odds are in our favor that several more than 15 shooting stars an hour will flash across the sky. How’s that if you still needed some extra motivation to brave the early morning cold?

Omega Smith, Senior Presenter at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Planetarium is excited about the potential spectacular as well.

“They’re known for having really bright fireballs, but not being very frequent. So not a lot of meteors happening per hour. But this year, we’re expecting to be a pretty high amount. So we’re talking about 200 to 300 meteors per hour, which is significant when it comes to meteor showers,” Smith said.

The annual astronomical occurrence was given the name Leonid because they come from the same part of the sky as the lion constellation Leo.

If you are getting up early — around 4 a.m. Alaska time — head outside, bundle up and look in the general direction of east or where the sun will be rising.

As mentioned, we should have plenty of clear skies for much of Southcentral, Southeast, and the Interior thanks to the large high pressure system that’s been over the state this week. Unfortunately, many west coast locations from the Alaska Peninsula northward through Bethel, Nome, on up to Utqiagvik will be cloudy. Don’t be discouraged though — the Leonids have been seen as late as the first week of December.

Don’t forget your list of wishes to make, and if you capture any cool videos or photos, you can share them with us using our website and mobile apps. Enjoy the show!