The showered-ly lion

The Leonid metoer shower is here. The Leonids peak every 33 years or so. They were especially prominent at around the turn of the millennium, so on the whole this year won’t be one for the books. However, while North American viewers can expect a true peak tonight and tomorrow morning, this year’s shower has a twist: Beginning at around midnight (East Coast) or 9 p.m. (West Coast) tomorrow evening, an “outburst” caused by the passage of Earth through the remnants of the tail of comet 55P Tempel-Tuttle, which looped around the sun 74 years ago, will produce up to 10 meteors per minute for a period of several hours.
The action is in the east-southeastern sky, not far above the horizon at the peak of activity. Here’s where to look (graphic courtesy of Gary W. Kronk):
leonids.jpg
This year, Saturn will be just outside and to the right of the “sickle” in Leo (the lion’s head) and — if you hang out until just before dawn Sunday morning — more or less directly above a sliver of a waning crescent moon, with a just-risen Mercury slightly above and to the left of the moon.

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