Leonid Meteor Shower - Event of the Year!

by Cathy Hall

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eonid Meteor Shower - Event of the Year! North American Meteor Network November 2002

What are the Leonids?

The Leonids are a very special display of 'shooting stars'. They are a sight of a lifetime when they storm, and they are predicted to storm in large numbers in 2002. These meteors are debris from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.

When are they visible?

Leonid meteors can be seen from November 14th to 21st. However, there will be several peaks of much higher activity during this time. One of these peaks occurs about 11 p.m. EST on Monday November 18th, with perhaps 1000 meteors per hour visible to the unaided eye. Observers in Europe will see this peak better, but eastern North Americans should see part of it. Then another peak time starts about 5 a.m. EST on Tuesday November 19th, with rates of perhaps 6000 meteors per hour! This is the big peak for observers all over North America!

Where should I go to watch the shower?

Get out of the city if possible. There is a full moon, that will hide fainter meteors from your view, but city lights will blind you to many fainter meteors as well. Try to block the moon - and any lights around you - with a building, a tree, or even a dark umbrella!

Where in the sky will the meteors seem to come from?

The meteors will seem to come from the 'sickle' of Leo, if you trace them back. However, they can be seen anywhere in the whole sky.

How many meteors will I see?

This is always a surprise! Predictions for the first peak are around 1000 meteors per person per hour. Predictions for the second peak are around 6000 meteors per person per hour. These are predicted rates with a dark sky, no moon, and Leo right overhead. So, in that regard, we will see fewer meteors than this. However - the meteor researchers also tell us that they could be wrong in their predictions - and that just maybe - we might see many more meteors than this! Nobody will know what really happens until we all go take a look! The Leonids are an incredible meteor shower - take a look at some of the best photos from last year's display: http://www1.nisiq.net/~numazawa/nippou/leo01e.html

Where can I get more information about the Leonids?
The NASA Leonid MAC site: http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/index.html

MeteorObs, a worldwide internet forum for meteor observers: http://www.meteorobs.org

The North American Meteor Network: http://www.namnmeteors.org