Stargazing UK A-Z. L is for...
The Leonids are a fantastic spectacle that happen every November. As we make our annual trip around the Sun, we pass through a meteoroid trail left by a Comet called Tempel-Tuttle.
These items are typically 10mm in size or less but collide with the Earths atmosphere at a whopping 72km/s. Most of the time they weigh no more than half a gram, but on average about 12 or 13 tons of particles arrive across the whole planet!
Usually you can see around 15 meteors per hour but every now and then, there can be a lot more. Jupiter is massive enough to disturb the particle streams, sending more debris our way. In 1833, there was a tremendous amount of meteors as described by Agnes Clerke (Victorian Astronomy Writer):
"On the night of November 12-13, 1833, a tempest of falling stars broke over the Earth... The sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs. At Boston, the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm. Their numbers... were quite beyond counting; but as it waned, a reckoning was attempted, from which it was computed, on the basis of that much-diminished rate, that 240,000 must have been visible during the nine hours they continued to fall."
Although we do not experience that many meteors each year, it is always great fun for the whole family to enjoy. Keep an eye on our Blog closer to November for advice on how to catch this years Leonid Meteor Shower.