Meteor Showers of November 2011

Leonids Fireball by George Varros - NASA

Leonids Fireball Image Credit by George Varros NASA

There are three meteor showers starting in November. Of the three meteor showers; two will peak and the other will be at its maximum in December. The meteor showers of November are the Leonids, the α-Monocerotids and the Phoenicids.  There are two other meteor showers that have been active for months coming to an end, the minor meteor showers, the Southern and Northern Taurids.

The Leonids Meteor Shower is the strongest meteor shower of November and will produce approximately twenty visible meteors per hour during its maximum in the morning hours of November 18th. This event starts November 6th and is caused by a comet named 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. This comet was very close to Earth in 1998 and subsequently thereafter produced a huge meteor storm in 2001. These events were unexpected and the Leonids for the most part can be very unpredictable.

What can you expect this year from the Leonids?

One can expect the moon to be a factor. The moon will be in its last quarter phase on November 18th and will be shedding some light into the sky. Light is a major inhibitor of meteor showers as it causes light pollution, which makes it more difficult to spot meteors. This year scientists are claiming that most of the particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere will be smaller than usual. I would love to tell you that this meteor shower is going to be as grand as the one that occurred in 2001, but I have to tell you to keep your expectations low.

When to look?

We should be observing this meteor shower whenever we can. There is nothing wrong with gazing at the skies in search of meteors. But believe me I know most of you have busy lives. I always get asked, “When is the best time to look?” So here’s your answer. Look in the morning hours of November 18th and use the illustration below to locate the constellation Leo.

Leonids Meteor Shower - Use the Big Dipper to Locate the Constellation Leo

The two other smaller meteor showers:

α-Monocerotids starts on November 15th and will have its greatest activity on November 22nd and the Phoenicids will start at the end of the month and will have its peak December 6th. Both of these showers are considered minor and will most likely produce little activity. I’d like to note that it is very difficult to predict when an outburst will occur, so the more seasoned viewer who has time to spend outdoors may spot some greater activity.

Quick Schedule:

Meteor Shower Start Maximum End ZHR
Southern Taurids Sep 25 Nov 5 Nov 25 5+
Nothern Taurids Sep 25 Nov 12 Nov 25 5+
Leonids Nov 6 Nov 18 Nov 30 20+
α-Monocerotids Nov 15 Nov 22 Nov 25 Low
Phoenicids Nov 28 Dec 6 Dec 9 Low

I will be out watching the shower several times during the month and I welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to use the search button in the top right corner. So with no further ado, I’m off to gaze at some meteors, in the meantime I’ll be keeping my head up, will you?

Keep your head up!

– Meteor Mark

2 thoughts on “Meteor Showers of November 2011

  1. Saw a large fireball over Murrieta ,Ca about 5:15pm. Appeared to break into 3 pieces just as it hit the tree line.

  2. Nov 15, 2011: Facing east, I was looking up and about 10:05pm MST, I was looking at the seven sisters and as my eyes gazed southward and then toward the horizon I saw one fall to the southwest. It looked as if it was right across the street above my neighbors house. Location: SE Auroa, CO 80015.
    Not sure if its a part of the Taurids, the Leonids or the a-Monocerotids.