Press Release

Largest Meteor Shower of the 21st Century to Light Up Mid-November Sky

By SpaceRef Editor
November 6, 2002
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WAUKESHA, WI – A once-in-a-century space event will create a
virtual storm of meteors over North America Nov. 18 and 19. During the
event, Earth will cross the orbit of the Comet Temple-Tuttle. Although the
comet poses no danger to Earth, fragments from its tail will collide with
our atmosphere, creating a firestorm of “shooting stars.” This natural sky
show, called the Leonid meteor shower, will be the last great storm for 30
years, and the biggest in the 21st century.

The first meteor storm should peak at 11:00 p.m. (EST) on
Nov. 18, and the second peak will follow 6.5 hours later at 5:30 a.m. on
Nov. 19. The second storm, which is best viewed from North America, will be
the most spectacular. Dust grains from the Comet Temple-Tuttle will hit the
atmosphere at 44 miles per second, producing the fastest – and potentially
brightest – meteors that can be seen from Earth.

Meteors, often called shooting stars, are bits of rock and
dust that hit Earth’s atmosphere, heat up, and glow. Most meteors vaporize
during their descent, but some explode. On rare occasions, people have
reported hearing hissing or static-like noise associated with meteors.

On any given night, you can observe an occasional meteor.
Meteor showers, such as the Leonids, are much more dramatic. During one
minute, an observer at a good location can see as many as 100 shooting
lights.

Astronomy magazine’s November issue contains all the
information you will need to successfully observe the Leonids: a finding
chart, tips on selecting a good observing location, storm times, and tips on
photographing meteors. Observers will also find further background on past
Leonid storms and the history of Comet Temple-Tuttle. Astronomy’s November
issue is available at your local newsstand or Barnes and Nobles Bookstores.

Please visit the press room area of our website to view and
download the images in a digital format:
http://www.astronomy.com/content/static/pressroom/default.asp

SpaceRef staff editor.