Every November, the Leonid Meteor Shower takes place, as our planet Earth moves through space, and crosses the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, the parent comet of the Leonid meteor shower. This year, in 2014, the peak night of the shower is expected from late evening November 17 to the morning of November 18. The best time to watch these shooting stars is the morning (not the evening) of the 18th November. The previous morning, i.e. on November 17, might also be worth considering for meteor showers.
Today I share this interesting information about the most famous Meteor Shower of 1833, more than 180 years ago, during the night of November 12 and early morning of November 13, 1833. It is also known as the “night the stars fell”, or the meteor storm of 1833, which was reported to produce more than 100,000 meteors an hour.
Here is one interesting account of that Most Famous Meteor Shower on the Night of November 12, 1833.
“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.”
- Agnes Clerke, Victorian Astronomy Writer
The most famous depiction of the 1833, actually produced in 1889 for the Adventist book Bible Readings for the Home Circle – the engraving is by Adolf Vollmy based upon an original painting by the Swiss artist Karl Jauslin, that is in turn based on a first-person account of the 1833 storm by a minister, Joseph Harvey Waggoner on his way from Florida to New Orleans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Nov. 13, 1833, the sky was full of shooting stars from the Leonid meteor shower. This shower was associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle and was named Leonid because it looked like it was shooting from the Leo constellation. The Meteor Shower of 1833 was reportedly a great spectacular sight, so much so that many people thought the world was coming to an end. It’s called as the “night the stars fell” in several stories. In general, Earth moves through the meteoroid stream of particles left from the passages of a comet. The stream comprises solid particles, known as meteoroids, ejected by the comet as its frozen gases evaporate under the heat of the Sun when it is close enough – typically closer than Jupiter’s orbit. The Leonids are a fast moving stream which encounter the path of Earth and impact at 72 km/s. Larger Leonids which are about 10 mm across have a mass of half a gram and are known for generating bright (apparent magnitude -1.5) meteors. An annual Leonid shower may deposit 12 or 13 tons of particles across the entire planet.
A fireball Geminids falling earthwards. The Draconid meteor shower of October 8, 2011, featured about 1000 meteors falling per hour. Almost all meteors burn up and disintegrate long before reaching the surface of the Earth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Leonid meteor shower happens every November, but it is expected to be more intense every 33 years. This can be explained as follows: The Tempel Tuttle comet revolves around the sun every 32 and a half years. The Earth passes through the comet’s orbit every year, but it’s closest to the Earth every 33 years when it passes closest to the sun. Hence the Meteor Shower gets intense every 33 years.
Leonid Meteor Storm, as seen over North America on the night of November 12-13, 1833. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Meteor Shower event was first recorded in 902 A.D, and Plato has documented similar Meteor Showers in his writings. There have been other accounts of the Leonid Meteor Showers, but the 1833 Shower was apparently the most spectacular ever recorded.
This image was created by combining 227 different images taken during the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower, using the free startrails.exe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Picture of Comet 67P, as captured by Philae and Rosetta Spacecraft on 19 September 2014. Comet 67P is 317,000,000 miles from our planet Earth.
We expect the Leonids Meteor Shower of this year to be reaching its peak on late night of November 17, 2014 to early morning November 18, 2014, in just two days.
Enjoy the Amazing Celestial Events of Nature: Leonid Meteor Showers!
Massachusetts, Saturday, November 15, 2014.
Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate.