November 16, 2000
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster
The above photograph of a very bright meteor (fireball) streaking across the night sky was taken by James Young 34 years ago, during the Leonid Meteor Shower in mid-November. Though only the size of sand grains to peas, meteors can be seen because the heat of friction created when they pierce our dense atmosphere ignites the shell of gas that builds up around them. The Leonid Meteor Shower was spectacular in parts of the US in 1966, and especially in 1833. The 1966 meteor storm produced more than 1,000 meteors per hour, and in 1833, an astonishing 100,000 meteors per hour were seen by many truly awe-struck observers. The remains of Comet Temple-Tuttle, which has a return period of about 33.25 years, is responsible for generating the Leonids meteors. Look in the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion in the early morning hours of Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th. This year the eastern US is favored to be in the best position to intercept the most meteors. Unfortunately, the moon will be just past full and too bright to see some of the smaller "shooting stars." Don't expect to see 1,000 meteors per hour, but if conditions are right, you may be rewarded with a memorable display of bright meteors.