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How can I best view a meteor shower?

If you live near a brightly lit city, drive away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate. For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to "rain" into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.

After you've escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites. Once you have settled at your observing spot, lay back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.

How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?

If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have "dark adapted," and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors. Circle Nov. 17 on your calendar, for early that morning a moderate to possibly very strong showing of annual Leonid meteor shower is likely. The very strong display will favor those living across most of central and eastern Asia.  In this region, meteor rates might briefly rise to a few hundred per hour (the time frame for the most intense activity is anticipated sometime around 21:40 GMT). 

A far more modest, but still potentially enjoyable display of a few dozen Leonid meteors per hour is expected to favor North America. In the United States and Canada, eastern observers will be particularly well-positioned for maximum activity, expected sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. EST, when the radiant of the Leonid shower will be well up in the dark southeastern sky.

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Viewing locations and times to view the Leonids meteor shower

Africa Asia Australia South America
View Africa Countries View Asian Countries Australian Cities South American Counties


Austria Belgium Bulgaria Czech Republic

Denmark Estonia Finland France

Germany Greece Hungary Ireland

Italy Norway Poland Portugal

Romania Spain Sweden United Kingdom



North America - United States

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas

California Colorado Connecticut Delaware

Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho

Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas

Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland

Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi

Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada

New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York

North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma

Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina

South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah

Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia

Wisconsin Wyoming    

North America - Canada

Alberta British Columbia Ontario Québec

Saskatchenwan Nova Scotia New Brunswick  


More Viewing Advice

No telescope is needed or even wanted. Just find the darkest place you can with the fewest trees and tall buildings blocking your view of the sky, get a blanket and lay on the ground or a lawn chair that lets you recline way back and just look at the sky. Give it at least half an hour before you give up. You may go many minutes without seeing a single meteor even at the peak of the shower. Viewing is usually better after midnight because that puts you on the "front" side of the Earth in its orbit. Looking for meteors in the early evening is like looking for bug splats on the back window of your car. The bugs usually splat on the windshield in front.

Watching a meteor shower consists of lying back, looking up at the sky ... and waiting. When you sit quite still, close to the rapidly cooling ground, you can become very chilled. You wait and you wait for meteors to appear. When they don't appear right away, and if you're cold and uncomfortable, you're not going to be looking for meteors for very long! Therefore, make sure you're warm and comfortable. Heavy blankets, sleeping bags, groundcloths, auto cushions, and pillows are essential equipment.


Leonids Tip

Watching a meteor shower consists of lying back, looking up at the sky ...and waiting.

Leonids Fact

NASA is predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia.

Leonids Tip

Keep in mind that any local light pollution or obstructions like tall trees or buildings will reduce your making a meteor sighting. Give your eyes time to dark-adapt before starting.

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