Watch "The Big Event"

David North

Well, this is it. November is the big month for meteor types, since that's when the Leonids happen. And as everyone knows by now, they were pretty active last year, and are expected to be even better this year in some regards. The Leonids run for more than one day... basically the week surrounding November 17/18. But they do have a sharp peak. The shower is the product of particles from comet Temple-Tuttle, which reached perihelion in 1998. A great concentration of particles exist near the parent comet. In years when the comet is far from the inner solar system, activity remains low. However, for approximately 10 hours centered on the perihelion passage, rates can skyrocket. So, the possibility of a storm exists, and if it's at all clear the night of the 17th, get out there and look, starting about 11 p.m. and going until nearly dawn the next day (you will, hopefully, know when you've had enough). A peak of 5 a.m. is fairly normal. The favored locations calculated to have the best shot are on the other side of the world, basically (Europe and the Middle East) but this kind of guesswork is not all that precise, so there's a good chance of one heck of a show for any location that night. And after last year's fireball storm...

But the Leonids are not the only shower in November. There are also the twin-spikes of the Taurids (how apt!) There are really two different peaks, though all the meteors are attributed to comet Encke. Generally they are slow and bright, so some of them can be quite spectacular. The first peak is expected the night of November 4/5, and the second the night of 11/12. Both are similar in character.

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David North; last updated: October 03, 2007 Prev Next