Monday, June 9, 2008

Leonids vs. The Moon

Beautiful and bright, the 2002 Leonid meteors fought against blatant moonlight. This victory example from Tuesday morning skies above Laughlin, Nevada, USA, a fearless Leonid strokes between the familiar constellation of Orion (left) and a full moon overexposed. As expected, the Leonid shower packed a double punch on 19 November with the planet Earth fall by two thick clouds of meteroids, dusty debris left by the passage of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Some European observers reported 10 or so meteors per minute in the first peak in the vicinity of 4:00 Universal Time, while North American skygazers witnessed slightly lower rates in the vicinity of the second peak at 10:30 UT. Overall, observed rates were much lower than last year Leonid meteor storm, but for many the sky was still filled with a rewarding spectacle of bright meteors. And this performance can be a fond farewell for the coming years. The annual Leonid meteor shower is not likely to approach these rates again until the end of this century.