Sunday’s Meteor Shower May Be Brilliant

KNOXVILLE – This year’s Leonid meteor shower may be unusually dazzling to those willing to get up early enough in the morning to see it.

A University of Tennessee journalism professor who has written extensively on astronomy says early Sunday morning will be the best time to view the meteor shower.

“Because we don-t have the moon interfering with our view in the early morning hours, the sky will be darker,” said Dr. Mark Littman. “And because this is the fall, the skies tend to be clearer, so we may have a better chance to see what’s up there.”

The Leonids are particles of dirt and rock thrown off by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Littman says another reason the meteor shower may be brighter this year is because of differences in the orbital path of the meteor particles through space.

“The orbit of this particular stream of material is roughly 33 years. For roughly 30 years out of 33, there’s nothing to be seen in the middle of November,” Littman said. “But some scientists are predicting that even though the best of the Leonids was in 1999, we could get an extra bonus shower this time around.”

The forecasts call for a steady stream of between 1,000 and 4,000 meteors per hour, between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday morning.

The best place to view the meteor shower, Littman says, is in an isolated area far away from artificial light. He says people should bring warm clothes, since the viewing will take at least an hour.