Four Asteroids to Fly By Earth This Weekend Ahead of Leonid Meteor Shower Peak

Four asteroids will fly past the Earth this weekend just before the Leonid meteor shower peaks early next week.

The meteor shower is active from November 6 to 30, but it will reach maximum activity on the night of November 16-17, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS.)

On this night the moon will be 5 percent full, meaning there will be dark skies and good viewing conditions—depending on the weather where you are of course.

Some observers are already reporting that they have spotted Leonid meteors, but activity will increase leading up to the peak.

At maximum activity, you may be able to see between 10 and 15 meteors—colloquially known as "shooting stars"—per hour, EarthSky reported.

For the best viewing conditions, head to an area away from light pollution where you have a clear view of the sky. No special equipment is necessary to see the meteors, but it may be worth bringing a reclining chair as you will need to watch the sky for an extended period—at least an hour, typically.

The Leonids are best known for producing meteor meteor storms—which are particularly intense meteor showers—notably in 1833, 1866, 1966, 1999, and 2001.

The most famous of these is the meteor storm of 1833, which reportedly produced a staggering 100,000 to 200,000 meteors per hour.

Unfortunately, an intense meteor storm is not expected in 2020. These intense outbursts of activity tend to occur when the parent object of the Leonids—the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle—is near its closest approach to the sun.

Meteor showers are celestial events during which numerous meteors stream across the night sky, appearing to originate from a single point known as the radiant. These events occur when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets, and (rarely) asteroids.

Before the Leonids peak, four asteroids will make a close approach to Earth over the course of the weekend.

The largest of these, dubbed 2020 ST1, will come within 4.5 million miles of Earth at 3:45 a.m. ET on November 14 while traveling at around 18,000 miles per hour, according to NASA's Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS.)

The large space rock is estimated to measure up to 787 feet in diameter, which is slightly taller than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The space rock known as 2019 VL59 is the next largest, measuring up to around 127 feet in diameter. It will make its closest approach to our planet at 5:26 a.m. on November 15.

The other two asteroids, which make their closest approaches on Sunday are relatively small, measuring up to around 36 and 49 feet in width respectively.

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Stock image: Artist's illustration of asteroids in orbit around the sun. This weekend, four asteroids will flyby the Earth. iStock