Meteor showers
National Space Centre

Leonid Meteor Shower 2023

  • 14th Nov 2023
  • Author: David Southworth

The Leonids

We’re treated to several meteor showers towards the end of the year and this week the Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak on the night of 17-18 November.

The Leonids typically produce up to 15 meteors an hour. These meteors are caused by the Earth passing through the debris left behind by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. As this debris – mostly made of small dust grains – hits Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, the air in front of it is squashed together and heats up causing the debris to disintegrate in flashes of light that we call meteors.

In the past, the Leonids have produced some of the most dramatic meteor showers ever witnessed. Roughly every 33 years, a Leonids storm produces around 1000 meteors an hour, with the most dramatic in recent decades occurring in 1966. Unfortunately, this year will not be one of those occasions, but should still provide a fine display.

This year the Moon will be in its waxing crescent phase, but will drop below the horizon before midnight. This means that, weather permitting, we should enjoy ideal viewing conditions in the early hours of 18 November when the radiant of the meteor shower rises higher in the sky.

Leonid meteor, 2015.
Jeff Sullivan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

How to watch from the UK

The Leonids are named after the constellation of Leo in which the position of the radiant is located. While the meteors seemingly originate from this point in the sky they can be best seen up to 30 degrees away from Leo, stretching across large sections of the sky. 

To view the Leonids from the UK, head outside in the early hours of 18 November. The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can, ideally away from city lights.

The constellation of Leo will be in the east. Let your eyes adjust to the dark, and scan the whole sky. As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient. You can also look for the Leonids on other nights – the shower runs from 3 November to 2 December.

Meteor Infographic

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared!  

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2023 include: 

Asteroid of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 13-14 December 2023
Peak Activity Meteor Count: up to 120 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: Dec. 21-22, 2023
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 5-10 meteors per hour



Happy meteor-gazing!