2001 Leonid Meteors

November 16, 2001


Provided by: Armagh Observatory
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

The above photo was a made from a woodcut after the amazing 1833 Leonid meteor storm. Here in the US, the last great Leonid meteor storm took place in 1966. The parent comet responsible for the Leonid meteors, Comet Temple-Tuttle, returns to perihelion (closest to the Sun) every 33 years or so, generating a new trail of meteoroids and dust each time. Temple-Tuttle was closest to the Sun in 1998, and brief meteor storms were visible each of the last 3 years in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. It's thought that the Earth may encounter a dense ribbon of meteors again this year.

Every year around November 17th, Earth's orbit carries us though the Leonid meteor stream - so named because most of the meteors come from the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion. In most years, we move through relatively sparse parts of the stream, and at best we see a meteor drizzle. However, scientists who study meteors believe that this year a meteor storm will again erupt, sending thousands of shooting stars flashing overhead. It seems that North America and eastern Asia may get the best views. Look toward the east in the early morning hours of Sunday November 18 - a few hours before dawn. Keep your fingers crossed, and don't forget to make a wish.

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