Saturday, November 18, 2006

Something to Watch Out For While You Are Waiting For The Wii

Leonid meteor shower nears peak

( -- The annual Leonid meteor shower could produce a strong outburst this weekend for residents of eastern North America and Western Europe.

A brief surge of activity is expected begin around 11:45 p.m. ET Saturday, November 18. In Europe, that corresponds to early Sunday morning, November 19 at 4:45 GMT. The outburst could last up to two hours.

At the peak, people in these favorable locations could see up to 150 shooting stars per hour, or more than two per minute.

"We expect an outburst of more than 100 Leonids per hour," said Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. Cooke notes that the shooting stars during this peak period are likely to be faint, however, created by very small meteoroid grains. (I-Report: Send us your Leonid photos)

Elsewhere people will see the typically enjoyable Leonid display of a few meteors each hour, weather permitting and assuming dark skies away from city lights.

Ancient debris

The Leonids are bits of debris left behind by repeated passages through the inner solar system of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Each November, Earth crosses various trails of debris, which have spread out over centuries and millennia. Dense debris trails have caused incredible meteor storms in years, past, notably 1998 through 2002.

Since then the show has been back to normal. But recent computer modeling suggests a brief outburst.

"For parts of Europe, Africa and eastern North America, a far more prolific Leonid show could be in the offing this year," said Joe Rao,'s Skywatching Columnist.

This year is not expected to be as memorable as some but well worth a look, astronomers say. The Leonids are known for producing bright fireballs, which could occur at any time.

The Leonids are so-named because they appear to emanate from Leo. The meteors can race across the sky in any direction, but trace each one back and it'll point to Leo.

Since Dann and David will be waiting outside tonight, maybe they can have fun watching this show. Take it there is no one trying to mug them, shoot at them or cut them in line. It's supposed to be pretty cold tonight and even cloudy, so you might just be staring at the back of some geek's unmanaged neck hair!! Have fun! I'll keep your drinks safe at the bar. Hmm, maybe I'll go have some sushi instead, with some nice warm sake. ;)

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