The 2019 Leonid meteor shower peaks late tonight. It is active from November 6 to 30 each year. The shower occurs as the Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The comet litters its orbit with bits of debris. This debris enters Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes. That's how we see the Leonid meteor shower. The shower gets its name because it the meteor radiate outward from the constellation Leo.
At the peak of the meteor shower on a dark night, you can see up to 10 to 15 meteors per hour. The Leonids meteors are bright and can also be colorful. They are also fast; traveling at speeds of 44 miles per second, and are considered to be some of the fastest meteors.
Every 33 years we can experience a Leonid storm. A meteor storm is defined as having at least 1,000 meteors per hour. It may look like meteors are falling like rain. The last one occurred in 2002. The Leonids are known for fireballs and earthgrazer meteors.
It is best to head out to look for meteors between midnight and dawn. The conditions for the peak of this year's Leonid meteor shower won't be the greatest. First, it will be obscured by the waning gibbous moon. The bright moonlight will drown out even the brightest meteors. We will also be battling cloud cover.
For the best viewing you will want to avoid the moon. It's going to be hard this week with the big, bright moon breaking through the clouds. If you want to try and catch a glimpse of the speedy Leonids, go away from the city lights. Put your back to the moon, or view the meteor in the shadow of a large structure, such as a barn. Give your eyes 15 to 30 minute to adjust to the darkness. Then sit back and wait from a meteor to zoom across the sky.