Adams Memorial Library The Leonids: King of the Meteor Showers

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The Leonids: King of the Meteor Showers
November 2001

Shooting Stars

Summer nights spent gazing up at the stars may be just a memory, now that autumn's nip has entered the night air. But at least one night in November will make it worth the trouble to bundle yourself in warm quilts and brave the crisp evening temperatures, as one of the year's best meteor showers lights up the night with nature's fireworks.

Meteors can be seen on almost any clear night, but annual meteor showers, such as November's Leonid shower, place the Earth in the path of many more fireballs than on average nights. In a good year, viewers were lucky to see a shooting star every three or four minutes. In a bad year, you could spend an hour searching in vain for one. Astronomers now believe that this year's Leonid meteor "shower" could wind up being more of a "storm," with the potential for as many as 800 to 2000 meteors an hour during the peak times. That could mean a shooting star every four or five seconds!

Generally speaking the peak time to view such a "storm" is in the wee hours of the morning, but the evening hours should offer at least a taste of this natural wonder, easily experienced with the naked eye. For more information about the Leonid Meteor Shower, start at the web site below. This page not only gives a very brief explanation of the phenomenon, but gives tips for viewing, and details the reasons why this year's shower might turn out to be outstanding. The page also gives links to other sites if this "storm" whets your appetite for more.

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