Meteor shower to streak across night sky

Posted: Monday, November 10, 1997

If the skies are clear this weekend, look for showers.

Skywatchers should be able to see the Leonoid meteor shower to the southeast, expected to be at its most visible between Saturday and Monday, according to local astronomers. The meteors are the remnants of a comet passing by the Earth's orbit every 33 years.

``Every time the Earth goes around the sun in its orbit it passes through the debris field,'' said Michael Orelove, a volunteer for the Marie Drake Planetarium.

The debris comes from comet Tempel Tuttle, said Nancy Waterman, another planetarium volunteer. She said the background of the shower is the constellation Leo, which is how it derives its name.

``Over the next few days, if you can see the apparent path of the sun across the sky, that's probably the path everything takes across our sky and Leo's kind of on that path,'' she said.

The best viewing time will be in the early morning hours of Nov. 17, she said.

``The full moon is on Nov. 14, so if we do have a clear sky there will be a little bit of moon glow that will get in the way,'' she said. But by early morning ``it will be off into the western sky.''

Planet watchers can also look for Saturn high in the southern sky and - earlier in the evening Jupiter in the southwestern portion.

About 10 to 15 meteors an hour will likely be visible during the shower, she said. That pales in comparison to the show expected next year or the following, when the comet passes by Earth again and replenishes the debris.

``There have been times when people have seen 1,000 meteors per minute, just for a short period of time,'' she said.

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