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​The best ways to watch the Leonid meteor shower

The Leonid meteor shower seen over the Azrak desert in Jordan, Nov. 18, 1999. The Leonids - so called because they appear in the sky in the region of the constellation of Leo - are a stream of minute dust particles trailing behind the Tempel-Tuttle comet.

JAMAL NASRALLAH/AFP/Getty Images

The annual Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak overnight, just before Tuesday's sunrise.

The shower comes every November, and in the past has resulted in spectacular shows. In 1966, for instance, the central and western United States saw tens of thousands of meteors rain across the skies at the rate of up to 40 per second.

Tonight's shower won't live up to those high standards. NASA scientists are predicting a peak rate of 15 meteors per hour, traveling at 44 miles per second, in what the agency called "a mild but pretty sprinkling."

Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center said that the best time for viewing will be after midnight, when the sky is at its darkest, and that the shower will peak as dawn approaches. He recommended finding a location away from city lights, lying on your back and looking straight up to catch the flying bits of debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

If getting out of the city isn't an option -- or if you're in the Eastern states, which are currently shrouded under cloudy skies -- you can catch the meteor shower online. NASA will be streaming the event from a telescope at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., until sunrise on Tuesday, as will Slooh Community Observatory.