Earth Grazing Meteors
back to or

A note about time: UT=Universal Time; EST=Eastern Standard Time, the time on the US east coast. Local time = the time wherever you live.

Sky watchers in North America may be able to spot an unusually beautiful type of meteor called Earthgrazers during this year's Leonid shower. Earthgrazers are long, bright shooting stars that streak overhead from just below the horizon. They often display colorful halos and long-lasting trails. Earthgrazers are so distinctive because they follow a path nearly parallel to our atmosphere.

Around local midnight on Friday, Nov. 17, and again on Saturday, Nov. 18, western-US observers could see such meteors as the Earth passes near dusty debris streams laid down by comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1932 and 1866, respectively. The Leonids radiant, as seen from the western parts of North America, will be near the horizon when our planet encounters those dust streams.

Eastern-US observers might be able to spot Earthgrazers around 11 pm EST on Friday, Nov. 17. That's when Earth will pass through a stream of comet debris laid down by Tempel-Tuttle in 1733. The Leonids radiant will be near or below the horizon for sky watchers along the Atlantic coast during the 1733 stream encounter.

When should you look?

Robert Lunsford, Secretary General of the International Meteor Organization, has generously offered to help North American readers figure out when they should be alert for Earthgrazing meteors. Simply email him your longitude and latitude and he'll reply with a suggested observing time.

back to or