Astronomical Phenomenon – One of the most beautiful celestial events to be seen today – What are the Leonids?

(Bildquelle: PixabayBuddy_Nath)

Christmas is just around the corner and you still have wishes that should definitely come true? Then today is your day! Because on the night of November 17th to 18th there is a special celestial phenomenon to be observed – the Leonids.

The Leonids are a meteor shower, or, to put it romantically, a swarm of shooting stars. So all you have to do is look up and as soon as you see a shooting star, close your eyes and send your wish skyward.

If that’s not enough for you and you want to know what the Leonids are all about, where they come from, how you see them best and why people believe that shooting stars grant wishes, read on.

What are the Leonids?

As already mentioned, the Leonids are a meteor shower. Meteorites, on the other hand, are small rock and dust particles, usually only a few millimeters in size, which burn up in the earth’s atmosphere and leave a trail of light.

What distinguishes the Leonids from other meteor showers is their origin. The rock and dust particles come from the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which leaves countless fragments behind as it orbits the sun.

The earth plowed through this particle cloud regularly on its own orbit around the sun. Therefore, the spectacle is repeated every year around November 17th.

A special feature of the Leonids is that they dart across the night sky particularly quickly. This is because of their orbit around the sun, which is opposite to that of the earth.

Fortunately, the Leonids are usually not dangerous. They usually burn up before they hit the ground. You can see how NASA wants to clear dangerous asteroids out of the way in the following video:

4:12 Almost like in a movie: NASA wants to crash a spaceship into an asteroid

This is the best way to see the Leonids

The most important requirement for seeing the Leonids is a clear night sky. You can’t see the shooting stars through a cloud cover, because they burn up at an altitude of around 100 kilometers. So far above the clouds.

It is also advisable to stay a little outside of cities, as this is where the so-called light pollution (the absence of complete darkness) is greatest and clouds your vision. So it’s best to look for a cozy place somewhere in the country and keep your eyes open.

Why should shooting stars grant wishes?

There is no clear historical reference for this superstition. However, it can be traced back over centuries. One explanation is as follows: Humans interpreted shooting stars as wicks that angels dropped while cleaning the heavenly candles. So if you saw a shooting star, you could hope for divine help.

Shooting stars are not always seen as a good thing, however: In Mongolia and among some indigenous tribes, they are seen as a sign of bad luck and are sometimes even feared. We have more about space for you here:

  • James Webb telescope reveals two-century-old storm larger than Earth
  • Why the new space telescope could change the way we see humanity

And how are you spending your evening now? Do you want to fulfill your heart’s desire and watch the Leonids? Or can’t you do that at all because it’s totally raining and overcast? Please let us know!


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