Meteors and a Comet Shine in the North Iowa Sky Tonight

Mostly clear skies are in the area’s forecast for tonight, what’s expected to be the best night for viewing the Geminid meteor shower — and a bonus comet. Professor Siobahn Morgan, who heads the University of Northern Iowa’s Astronomy Department, says don’t worry about bringing binoculars or a telescope. Just find someplace away from city lights, bundle up, stretch out and look up.

Viewing this year should be ideal as the shower is peaking when the moon is nearly new, so the skies will be darker. It’s called the Geminid meteor shower because those “shooting stars” appear to be coming from the constellation Gemini.

There should be about 60 meteors per hour, or roughly one every minute. The Comet Leonard should also be visible tonight, but it won’t be quite as easy to spot, and you will need a viewing aid to pick it out.

Leonard may best be seen in the early evening, just below and to the left of Venus which will be the brightest object in the sky. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity as it takes Comet Leonard about 80,000 years to orbit the sun.

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