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Leonids meteor shower will peak on Wednesday November 17, followed by partial lunar eclipse Friday November 19



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One of the most prolific meteor showers to take place each year will peak in the UK on Wednesday night (Nov 17).

The Leonids meteor shower is an annual highlight for stargazers, where up to 15 shooting stars an hour can be seen during the spectacle.

Caused by small rocks and debris falling from a comet called Temple Tuttel, the Leonids – which take their name from the constellation Leo and appear every November – are some of the fastest-moving meteors, travelling at speeds of up to 44 miles per second.

The Leonids meteor shower takes place every November. Picture: Adobe stock image.
The Leonids meteor shower takes place every November. Picture: Adobe stock image.

This week's peak is set to happen on Wednesday night through to Thursday – however, viewing conditions may not be as favourable as in previous years.

Weather forecasts for the middle of the week suggest much of the UK could be covered in patchy blankets of cloud, which will complicate being able to get a clear view of the Leonids.

A bright – nearly full – moon may also hamper efforts of those trying to catch sight of the shower, which is likely to be best seen between midnight and dawn.

Skies, which aren't blighted by light pollution caused by homes and street lights, make for the best viewing. Image: iStock.
Skies, which aren't blighted by light pollution caused by homes and street lights, make for the best viewing. Image: iStock.

When it comes to the Leonids' arrival, binoculars or a telescope are not essential. For the best view, meteor spotters need simply to look up and take in the widest view possible of a clear sky and one that is affected by as little light pollution as possible.

Stargazers disappointed by Wednesday's forecast and untimely arrival of the moon may, however, appreciate its bright appearance just a few days later when a partial eclipse is set to happen.

While it might make conditions unfavourable for spotting comet debris and shooting stars, the full moon will be partially eclipsed on Friday (Nov 19).

Visible from the UK – alongside parts of North America and some parts of Western Europe – the partial lunar eclipse will take place between 6am and the time the moon sets.

A partial lunar eclipse could make the moon appear red. Image: stock photo
A partial lunar eclipse could make the moon appear red. Image: stock photo

It is caused when the Earth blocks the passage of sunlight to the Moon, and the Earth's shadow falls across the full moon, causing some darkening or changes of colour to the lunar surface.

Once again, those wishing to catch a glimpse will not only need to get up early but also find a location where the view of the sky and of the horizon is as clear as possible.

In order to watch the moon as it drops towards the horizon, which should be unobstructed for the best chance of seeing the partial eclipse, you should also be looking in a west-northwest direction.

The event is likely to have finished by 7.30am, possibly earlier, depending on how far north and west you are in the UK. And again, while the eclipse can be viewed through binoculars or a telescope, those wishing to get involved can also just use their eyes, making it an ideal event for those new to spotting events in the sky.



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