What is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower is a result of the earth passing through the left over debris clouds from a comet. In the Leonids case the earth passes through the debris from Comet Temple-Tuttle as the comet made a previous trek through the earths orbital path.

Leonid 2001 Storm: Includes Photographs, video, and observations.

Leonid 2002 Show: Journals and photographs are in!!!

Shower or Storm?

Over time these patches of comet debris spread out giving us a small shower. The Leonid meteor shower generally sees 10 to15 meteors per hour at the maximum. When the earth passes the denser patches we see a meteor storm, with thousands of meteors per hour at the maximum. 

When were the previous storms?

First record of the Leonid storm was by the Arabians in 902. Then in 931 the Chinese reported a Leonid storm. In 1799  two scientists witnessed a storm in South America. Curious about the Leonid storm, one of the researchers investigated the matter and found that 33 years earlier in 1766,  South America had witnessed Leonid storm. The Indies and Canada witnessed a storm of 50,000 to 200,000 meteors per hour in 1833. Scientists were starting to see a pattern and in 1866  Western Europe had another good show of the Leonids. In 1966  the Western United States saw 150,000 meteors per hour. Scientists expected that the pattern would hold and we would see a Leonid storm around 1999. A brief burst of meteor activity occurred in 1999  in Europe. In 1998 and 2000  the public watched on as bright fireballs were seen during the Leonids, although the meteor rate was not great. The year 2001 was predicted to give earth a meteor storm and that is exactly what we saw:)

Why weren’t there storms in 1899 and 1933?

The Leonids of 1899 and 1933  were expected to fall into the pattern and produce a meteor storm, but no storm materialized. At the time the scientific community did not consider the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, which caused the debris to shift away from the earth’s orbit, and caused the lack of storms in 1899 and 1933.

What about 2002?

2002 is expected to be a good show as well. A brief is coming soon…until then check out the following websites.

Other Leonid sites:


Falling Stars by Mike Reynolds (Thanks for the book Mark!)

Observing Meteors, Comets, Supernovae and other Transient Phenomena edited by Patrick Moore. 



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