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The Leonid meteor shower is coming — here's when and how to watch

Set your alarm to catch the Leonids!
The Leonid meteor shower occurs every November.
The Leonid meteor shower occurs every November.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The Leonid meteor shower will light up the night sky this month and put on a socially distant spectacle for everyone to enjoy.

This year, one meteor is expected to streak across the night sky every five minutes or so during the peak of the Leonids. That's according to Bill Cooke, the lead for the meteoroid environment office at NASA, who told TODAY what to look for.

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When to watch the Leonid meteor shower

The Leonids occur every year in mid-November. This year, the best time to watch the meteor shower at its peak is around 3 or 4 a.m. local time on November 17.

"They’re an early morning riser shower, which makes it inconvenient for some people," Cooke said. If you want to watch, be sure to set an alarm!

What are the Leonids?

Those objects streaking through the sky occur when bits of Comet Tempel-Tuttle vaporize in the Earth's atmosphere.

"You might see as many as 10 to 15 meteors per hour," Bruce McClure of EarthSky told TODAY. "If you trace the Leonid meteors backwards, they all seem to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion."

McClure said the shower will be visible around the world, but it "favors the Northern Hemisphere."

What's the best way to watch the Leonids?

The Leonids are fainter than some other annual meteor showers.

"To see meteor showers, go out, find a dark place and lay flat on your back and look straight up," Cooke said. "Use your eyes. There's no need for a telescope or binoculars."

He also recommends not looking at a smartphone while outside, since this can affect how a person sees objects at night. Since the Leonids are on the dimmer side, sky gazers will need to stay alert as they watch the early morning cosmic event.

While the Leonids are tamer than some other meteor showers, consider them the opening act for the Geminids. The much more lively meteor shower is set to peak next month on the night of December 13.