Those of who woke up early enough to catch a glimpse of the Leonid Meteor Shower were probably disappointed. The spectacular meteor showers in 1999, 2001 and 2002 offered hundreds of meteors an hour. This morning’s show? Just 5 or 10 per hour.
As far as numbers go, it was bust. But, there were still a few good meteors to see.
Rose-Marie Burke took this photo of a Leonid meteor in Ontario, Canada. The bright meteor pictured below “left a smoke trail that I could see naked eye for about a minute,” according to Burke.
Why Was This Year’s Shower a Bust
It’s all about the comet that causes the meteor shower. Comet Tempel-Tuttle is responsible for the Leonid meteor shower with the heaviest concentration of meteoroids appearing behind the comet.
Back in 1998, Tempel-Tuttle swept through the inner solar system. The following few years saw fantastic meteor showers. Those showers then tapered as the comet moved away from the sun.
Today, Tempel-Tuttle is nearing the far end of its orbit. At its furthest point, Tempel-Tuttle will be 1.84 billion miles away from the sun.
While the Leonid meteor shower can be spectacular, it will be a few more years before the number of meteors wows.
Still, it only takes one meteor to wow you. And, Leonids are often the ones to do that. Since Leonids orbit around the sun in the opposite direction of Earth, they hit our atmosphere extremely fast. This produces extremely bright meteors with visible smoke trails, such as the one pictured above.
See any good Leonids this morning? Let me know in the comments.
As for the next meteor shower? The Geminids will peak December 13-14. As many as 50 to 100 meteors per hour will be visible at the peak. The Geminids are also known to produce bright meteors.