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Active night skies

November 10, 2017; 4:20 PM


Several important celestial events will occur over the next week. Two different meteor showers will reach a peak. Also, the conjunction of the two brightest planets will occur. Oh, and we will have the largest rocket launch on the East Coast in more than a year. Phew!

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Let's start with the big conjunction. Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest planets in the night sky. They will appear side-by-side just before dawn on November 13, but you will be able to see the pair close to each other over the next week or so.

You will have to look just before daybreak. In fact, the sky will start to brighten by the time the planets become clearly visible above the horizon. They both rise about an hour before the sun.

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Meanwhile, meteor season continues. There are numerous meteor showers through the fall season. The northern Taurid meteor shower is active now. It has a very gradual peak, which will occur this weekend. This shower is most known for quality and not quantity. This shower features many fireballs, which are just very bright meteors. You can see this fireball-producing meteor shower through the entire month of November.

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Next weekend, the Leonids peak. The peak night is also the night of the new moon (Nov. 17/18) The Leonids have a very storied history. The greatest meteor storms in recorded history have been associated with the Leonids. The last great storm was in 2001, when thousands were visible per hour. The meteor storms of 1966 and 1833 produced close to 100,000 per hour. The sky was filled with meteors constantly through the night. Unfortunately, the 2017 Leonids will be tame with 20 or fewer per hour.

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But, if you are bummed about the Leonids, just wait until December. Arguably the best meteor shower of the year occurs the night of December 13/14. This is the peak of the Geminids. There will be more than 100 per hour. The only reason some feel this shower is not as good as the August Perseids is the fact it is a lot colder in December, and harder to be outside for long periods of time.

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A large rocket will be launched from Virginia Space's Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Saturday. The launch is scheduled just after sunrise. This will probably cut down on the visibility of the launch. Still, it may be visible across a wide area. Skies will be crystal clear across the launch area. However, temperatures will be so cold, the launch could be delayed.

Enjoy your time outside! Not too many things are free anymore; however, looking at the night sky is still one of those things. Thanks for reading! Just look up; you never know what you will see.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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