From Saturday through Nov. 20, keep your eyes on the sky during the pre-dawn hours, because that's when the famous Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak. These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com.
The Leonid meteor shower, which was first recorded in 902 AD by Chinese astronomers, comes from the comet Temple-Tuttle and is named for constellation Leo the Lion, from which the shower will appear to radiate. In 1966, it produced the most dramatic meteor shower in modern history: a quarter million shooting stars in an 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.
Do you plan to watch? Where will you go to do so? Share the best spots in Marin in our Comments section below.
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..."
The Leonids shower is so-called because the meteors seem to radiate outward from the constellation Leo. The starting point, called the radiant for obvious reasons, is found in the part of Leo that looks like 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.
In recent weeks, Marin has been more than just a great place to watch a meteor shower. On Oct. 19, Novato residents found and identified a space rock the size of a golf ball as a meteorite and reached out to Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute in Mountain View. Jenniskens was hoping for hard evidence of meteorites after a fireball spewed chunks over the North Bay on Oct. 17. Jenniskens initially said the rock was a meteorite, then backed off before doubling back to his first instinct and declared it a remnant of the fireball. The hunt continues as Jenniskens is hosting a free public event at 2 p.m. Saturday in Novato to verify possible meteorite discoveries and map the locations where Novato meteorites landed.
As for the Leonids shower, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn to see it. 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.