DENVER - This is the night for the peak of the 2012 Leonids meteor shower.
Beginning Friday night at dark and continuing into the early Saturday morning before sunrise is the best time to view meteors in the sky.
If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of so-called "shooting stars." The moon will be a waxing crescent setting before midnight, clearing the way for some unobstructed Leonid viewing.
"We're predicting a normal year of 15 to 20 meteors per hour," said Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
This year, Nature may also provide a bonus. The evening/morning of Nov. 19-20 could offer a secondary peak for the Leonid meteor shower.
The Leonids occur each year in mid-November -- bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. Many of these streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth's orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be radiating out of the constellation Leo. If you have a smartphone, Google Sky Map is a good app to help you find Leo's location in the sky.
For best meteor viewing Cooke suggests going to a location away from city lights, dressing warmly, and lie flat on your back and look straight up. In Colorado, an outdoor hot tub with the outside lights off also works. No special viewing equipment needed -- just your eyes.