It happens every year, so it's not as cool as something that happens once in our lifetime, but it is still a meteor shower that we can see from earth, and that is pretty cool to me. The Leonid meteor shower should put on a show for stargazers who can stay up late tonight.

The annual meteor storm is known for sometimes producing as many as a thousand fireballs per minute, as it did in 1966, but astronomers say this year sky-watchers are likely to see maybe 20 per hour.

The Leonids meteors are actually tiny pieces of the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which orbits the sun in a large ellipse. Tempel-Tuttle orbits the sun in an ellipse. Each year as the Earth moves around the sun, it encounters the trailing tail of debris the comet leaves in its wake. Once every 33 years, Tempel-Tuttle comes close to the Earth as it whizzes by in its orbit. In those years, the debris trail Earth travels through is especially thick, and the resulting meteor showers can be spectacular.

The expected 10 to 20 meteors per hour isn't a whole lot in comparison to years past, because the comet last passed close to us in 1999.

The peak began building late Friday night into Saturday morning and will continue through early Sunday morning, says Ben Burress, an astronomer at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland. This year should be good viewing, because the moon will set around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in each U.S. time zone. "So Sunday morning anywhere from midnight to 3 or 4 a.m. is the prime window," Burress says.

The best way to view the shower is to go to an area away from city lights, lay down and looking straight up to view as much of the sky as possible. Don't expect to see any meteors until you've allowed between 30 and 40 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, though, and at a minimum, plan to stay out for at least an hour.

[USA Today]