Featuring perhaps the fastest meteors of any shower, the Leonids this week may be easy to locate but hard to actually see, thanks in both cases to the moon. (Get the scoop on last year's Leonids.)
"The quarter-phase moon"—when the lunar disk appears half dark—"will interfere with meteor watching this year," said Ben Burress, staff astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California.
"But since [the moon] won't rise until after local midnight, and meteors can be seen in the earlier hours as well, there is a spell of time in the evening of the 17th when the sky will be moonless and darker, making for good conditions for viewing," Burress said.
For instance, sky-watchers worldwide can try looking up at the eastern sky during the predawn hours of Friday, when the Leonids' peak will produce about 20 visible shooting stars an hour.
Astronomers also expect as many as three outbursts during which there could be upward of 200 meteors an hour. However, because the particles involved will be exceptionally small—about a hundred thousandths of a millimeter across—these outbursts will most probably go unnoticed by observers, even in dark locations.