Keep your eyes on the sky during the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 17-20, because that's when the famous Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak. These meteors are fast (about 40 miles per second) and can leave trails of smoke, according to Astronomy.com. They will appear to radiate from the constellation Leo the Lion and can vary in color.
"Many Leonids are also bright. Usually, the meteors are white or bluish-white, but in recent years some observers reported yellow-pink and copper-colored ones," according to Astronomy.com.
In Lynnfield, several places come to mind for watching a meteor shower if light or space aren't favorable at home. Close to downtown, the Reedy Meadow Boardwalk is mere steps away from Main Street (helpful in November weather) and has a nice wooden bench or two. But bring a flashlight and watch your step. After all, it's a boardwalk over a marsh. The Beaver Dam Brook town conservation area behind the Center Court shops - also off Main Street - offers a fairly open space that is reasonably free of light pollution.
The Rotary Park area of Pillings Pond, off Summer Street, comes to mind. The shore of Suntaug Lake, at Newhall Park behind the Bali Hai may be another spot to get a glimpse of the meteor shower with reasonably low light pollution - although Route 1 is practically a stone's throw away.
Those who are already familiar with Bow Ridge Reservation may also have a go-to spot out in this fairly wide-open town conservation area.
Here's one of the 10 coolest things to know about the Leonids, from Space.com: "Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, it rounds the Sun and then goes back to the outer solar system. On each passage across Earth's orbit, Tempel-Tuttle lays down another trail of debris..."
The Leonids shower is so-called because the meteors seem to radiate outward from the constellation Leo. The starting point, called the radiant for obvious reasons, is found in the part of Leo that looks like a backwards question mark.
The Leonids have been called a meteor "storm" (rather than just a "shower") some years, but reports say this year will be limited to "at best 10 to 15 meteors per hour." The last Leonid storm, with thousands of shooting stars per hour, was in 2002.
A report from MSNBC says there is a reason this year's display is a bit different: there will be "two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20)."
What is a meteor? It's the streak of light that we see when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. The Leonids usually contain many bright meteors with trails that can be seen for several minutes. Fireballs may be seen with the naked eye.
The shower began in mid-November. To see the Leonids, lie outside in a dark place between midnight and dawn. Point your feet east and look carefully.
To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch.