spectacular display of meteors that occurs every
The Leonids generally begin on
November 13 and end on November 21, with peak
activity generally occurring on November 17. They
are called Leonids because the meteors appear to
originate in the Constellation Leo.
In most years observers see
displays of about ten meteors an hour on the peak
night, but about every 33 years the Leonids enter
a phase of greatly enhanced activity that
accompanies the return of their parent comet,
Tempel-Tuttle. During these periods observers are
treated to displays of hundreds, sometimes
thousands, of meteors per hour. One of the most
spectacular displays in centuries occurred on
November 17, 1966, when for about half an hour as
many as 2,000 meteors per minute could be seen by
observers in the southwestern United States.
Left: The Leonids as seen
from Table Mountain Observatory, California, on
November 17, 1966 (time-exposure photo).
The study of meteor showers began with the
1833 appearance of the Leonids, thanks to
American astronomer Denison Olmsted. It was he
who first "traced the meteors back" to
the Constellation Leo, and he proposed that they
originated from a cloud of particles in space.
That cloud turned out to be a comet, which was
discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Tuttle in
1865 and 1866, respectively.
Meteor Showers Online http://meteorshowersonline.com/leonids.html
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