This year's Leonid meteor shower, which peaks tonight, will offer modest numbers of "shooting stars" — but might reward you with some dazzling fireballs.

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The direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest. Notice the meteors' flight paths; only those streaking away from the direction to the constellation Leo are Leonids. They're incredibly fast-movers as meteors go, striking Earth's atmosphere at 71 km per second (160,000 mph). Sometimes they create dazzling fireballs with an afterglow (technically known as a train) that can linger as a ghostly thread in the sky for up to a minute.

Another, less-known meteor shower is going on simultaneously — the Taurids. They're sparse but tend to be very bright and much slower. And you're bound to see a few sporadics that aren't associated with any major shower.

Be sure to bundle up warmly; meteor-watching is always colder than you expect. Ideal meteor-watching equipment is a comfortable lounge chair, a warm sleeping bag, and a pillow. If you live in a city or suburb, consider traveling to a dark location far from city skyglow. In any case, find a spot where no lights glare directly into your eyes.

For more information, read our article Basics of Meteor Observing. And you can also download our free eBook on meteor observing.


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