The Comet Tempel-Tuttle loops around the sun, shedding bits of dust and ice behind it. Each November, Earth intersects Tempel-Tuttle's orbit and passes through this trail of debris. The comet crumbs slam into Earth's atmosphere and burn up in a pretty light show. Leonid showers occur each November, but are spectacular only every 33 years when the comet speeds through the inner solar system and sheds swarms of particles as it nears the sun.
In 1998, one of these spectacular Lightshows was forecasted. This year, the best viewing spot was predicted to be in Eastern Asia, particularly in China. Many observers trekked to Asia for the show. However, the shower peaked in Europe.
There was a concern that there was a chance that the meteors might damage
the artificial satellites and other installations in orbit. Damages
in satellites would be costly. Some precautions measures were taken by
Nations and private satelliite companies. No damage was reported.
At about 10 p.m. on the night of Nov. 12, 1833, some people started noticing a few streaks of light across the night sky. A few hours later, that sprinkling of meteors turned into a storm of tens of thousands. People thought Jugdement Day had arrived.
The great storm in 1833 spurred scientists to figure out what was going
on. Dennis Olmstead observed that the meteor streaks all appeared to be
radiating out of the constellation Leo, which is why the meteors were later
named the Leonids. In the 1860s, Hubert A. Newton, found records among
archives, of 13 displays of the Leonids from year 902. The large meteor
storms appeared to occur on a 33.25year cycle, and Newton correctly
predicted that another storm would occur in 1866. By 1866, astronomers
had also mapped out the meteors's orbit and found it coincide with
Key Individuals, Places and Organisations:
NASA, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, The International Meteor Organisation,
Astronomical Obervatories, Dennis Olmstead.
Late October-November 1998: 1998 will see a Leonid Meteor lightshow- each November, Earth passes through comet Tempel-Tuttle's trail of debris. The comet crumbs slam into Earth's atmosphere and burn up in a pretty light show. Leonid showers are spectacular only every 33 years.
Appearances of news reports on the forecoming Leonid meteor showers. Historical and Scientific introductions.
November 1998: All over the world observers prepared to watch this spectacular
lightshow. This years show was forecast to be best viewed in Asia, particularly
in China. Across Asia, stargazers enthusiastically awaited to witness the
-Thailand: In northern Thailand, people swarmed to Doi Inthanon, the country's highest peak at 8,464 feet, and Doi Suthep, another mountain with a famed Buddhist temple on top. But clouds and lightning hindered the viewing.
-Japan: Across Japan, tens of thousands of grade-school students prepared to observe the shower and compared notes through the Internet.
-India: In New Delhi, the Nehru Planetarium asked local authorities to turn off streetlights after midnight so people could watch the show.
11/3: Researchers at The Chinese Academy of Sciences said that The Chinese city of Changchun may be the most ideal place to observe the meteor shower. November 17, between 2-4 am might be the best time for observation.
11/15: Beijing, Shanghai and other observatories busy with their Last
minute preparations for the Leonid Meteor Shower, the first time it was
observable in Chinese terrortories.
Seminar in China for international observers.
11/15: NASA deployed their 2 observation planes that will collect temperature and Spectrum data to study the composition of the meteors. Some scientists believe some elements necessary for life may have been brought to earth by comets or meteors.
11/16: Brilliant fireballs at rates reaching 800 an hour observed at the Beijing Astronomical observatory.
11/17: While people around the world watched the beginning of the Leonids-NASA and private satellite companies rotated their high-tech machinery to face away from the approaching debris.
11/17: Unfortunately, most people waited until Nov. 17 - when the maximum was expected to occur over eastern Asia - before looking up. That night, accordingly, there were fewer meteors and very few fireballs.
11/18: Satallite companies announced that their satellites had not been damaged in the meteor shower. No disruptions in the telecommunications had been reported.
11/24: The International Meteor Organization said this year's Leonids
peaked at a rate of 500 per hour, although there are reports as high as
1,000 to 2,000 per minute in Switzerland. Instead of peaking over east
Asia, as predicted, the shower peaked in Europe, to the disappointment
of stargazers in Asia.
Special Terms and Concepts:
Astronomy, Comet Tempel-Tuttle, Meteor Showers; the 1833,1866, 1966