Saturday, November 18, 2006

Watch out for the Leonid meteor shower tonight

Do watch out for the Leonid meteors tonight. Astronomers predict that more than 100 of these meteors (per hour) will be shooting across the sky during the meteor shower's peak. The Leonid meteor shower appears every November 18/19 and over the recent years it has put on a good performance. I remember in 2001 when I saw more than 500 hundred Leonids during the so called meteor storm. That was definitely one of the best sights I've seen in my life. This year, astronomers say that an intense activity is still on the cards. From NASA:
Earth's encounter with the comet dust is going to be brief—"possibly no more than a few hours long," says Cooke. Forecasters differ on when the outburst will occur. Estimates range from 0445 UT to 0630 UT on Nov. 19th (11:45 p.m. on Nov. 18th to 1:30 am EST on Nov. 19th). The timing favors western Europe, Africa, Brazil and eastern parts of North America.

Cooke urges observers to find the darkest possible skies. "These Leonids are going to be faint." Why? "The stream contains very small grains of comet dust. Small grains make faint meteors--it's as simple as that."

The mid-November region of Earth's orbit is littered with debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every time the comet visits the inner solar system (once every 33 years), it lays down a new stream of dust, pebbles and rock. This creates a sort of "minefield" for Earth to navigate every November.
Although the timing of the peak is not favourable for those in Singapore and the surrounding region (its daylight morning for us on Nov 19), from my experience, it is still possible that we may get to see a good shower if we start observing just after midnight tonight. I think we may see more Leonids as we approach sunrise. So here's to clear skies tonight.

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