Peak of Leonid meteor shower over Okanagan, Kamloops tonight | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Peak of Leonid meteor shower over Okanagan, Kamloops tonight

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The peak of the Leonid meteor shower is tonight and it looks like the weather may cooperate in Kamloops and the Okanagan.

A five kilometre-wide comet known as Tempel–Tuttle orbits the sun every 33 years, and the Earth passes through its orbit every November. Debris shed by the comet lingers in its orbit, and when our planet intersects with that debris, each little piece flares up into a fireball as it meets the friction of the earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Ryan Ransom, professor of physics and astronomy at Okanagan College in Penticton, said the pieces of debris that light up the sky are usually tiny.

“Most of these bits are the size of sand, maybe pebble-size,” Ransom said. “Just above what you would consider to be microscopic.”

However, it is possible to get lucky enough to see “hand-sized” meteors – which can produce larger, colourful streaks, he said.

For those who haven’t witnessed a meteor shower, Ransom said it can be a disappointing experience. While some meteors can appear extraordinary bright and colourful, most are just faint streaks of white light. Some are so dull they can leave a person wondering if was a meteor at all.

“Tonight’s going to be a much better night to see a meteor than most nights,” he said.

To have the best chances of seeing a meteor shower in all its glory, he recommends having a clear view of the eastern sky where most of the action will be happening. He also suggest getting as far away from city lights as possible.

Colin Taylor, a professor of physics at Thompson Rivers University, said the best time to watch tonight’s shower will be around 1 or 2 a.m. For those in the Kamloops area, he recommends the Dufferin area to avoid light pollution.

“But for any meteor shower you don’t need to go a long ways out of town,” Taylor said.

The Environment Canada forecast for tonight is calling for a few clouds in Kamloops, partly cloudy in Penticton, while Kelowna and Vernon can expect increasing cloud.

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