November 12, 1998
Leonid meteor shower coming, but “big storm” won’t be visible here
The annual Leonid meteor shower will appear Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 17 and 18. This year the event will include a meteor “storm,” as the Earth plows through a small and very dense clump of particles trailing from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The particles will create a light show as they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Such a storm occurs every 32 years, and one in 1966 produced a short period that averaged 50 displays per second.
The best forecasts indicate the storm will occur between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. PST on Tuesday. That means it will take place in bright daylight and will not be visible in the United States, according to University of Washington astronomy Professor Bruce Balick.
Aside from the storm, the rest of the Leonid shower – so named because it appears to be coming from the constellation Leo – will be visible in clear, dark night skies in the predawn hours Tuesday and Wednesday. About 50 displays per hour are forecast for the western United States and Canada between 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, with the rate dropping to about 10 per hour in the early morning Wednesday. In the Pacific Northwest, the darkest skies and clearest weather statistically are east of the Cascade Mountains – along Interstate 90 between Cle Elum and Moses Lake, for example. The shower is best viewed without binoculars or a telescope, Balick says.
No Leonid-related campus activities are planned at the UW. More information is available on the Internet at http://www.astro.washington.edu/balick/leonids98.html. The latest weather information is available at http://www.atmos.washington.edu.