Nov 19, 1998

Early Birds catch the Leonids

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Shower peak occurred more than 14 hours ahead of schedule
A Leonid Fireball photographed in Hong Kong on 16 Nov 1998
November 19, 1998: Reports from around the world indicate that the peak of this year's Leonid meteor shower occurred between 14 and 19 hours earlier than experts had predicted. Sky-watchers in Europe and the Middle East were treated to a rain of meteors averaging 250 per hour from 0000 to 1200 Universal Time (UT) November 17. The most intense activity, according to the International Meteor Organization, took place between 0000 and 0330 UT when an average of 490 meteors per hour were seen by experienced meteor watchers.

Right: A Leonid fireball photographed by Schindler Leung in Hong Kong at 1900 UT, 16 November 1998. The Leonids peak, about 6 hrs after this photograph was taken, was preceded by a flurry of activity rich in bright meteors and fireballs, some brighter than -10 magnitudes.


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Meteor watchers from six continents have sent hundreds of emails to Science@NASA reporting Leonid meteor counts. At the time this story is being prepared, the morning of November 19th, reports are still pouring in at a rate of over 30 per hour. That's about the rate of fireballs observed during the Leonid peak. Two groups of experienced observers, one in Israel and one in France, were well-positioned to confirm enhanced activity between 0000 and 0500 UT. Web Links

Leonids Live! - images and video from the 1998 Leonid meteor storm

Meteor counts - submit your own meteor counts to NASA!

1998 Leonids Data Bank -- a useful summary of Leonids information from NASA Ames.

The November Leonids: Will they Roar? -- Predictions from JPL

Eyewitness accounts of the 1966 storm -- an Ames Research Center Archive

NASA's Office of Space Science - press releases and other news related to NASA and astrophysics

Related Stories:

Great Expectations: the 1998 Leonids Meteor Shower -- the basics of the Leonid meteors. Includes eyewitness accounts from the great 1966 storm and observing hints for 1998.

Halley's comet returns in bits and pieces -- story posted Oct 20 on the Orionid meteor shower

Giacobinids dazzle observers

Tune-up for the Leonids - story posted Oct 7, discusses the astronomy of the Giacobinids

External Links:

The Leonids -- from Gary Kronk Meteors and Comets web site

International Meteor Organization


meteor flash!
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Author: Tony Phillips
Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Curator: Bryan Walls
Responsible NASA official: John M. Horack