A Brief Summary of What Transpired
for the 2002 Leonid Meteor Shower

The last Leonid "super storm" transpired in 1966 when over 100,000 meteors per hour were seen at one point in the eastern part of the United States. The 33-year cycle suggested that 1999 would be spectacular. A storm (defined as having an hourly rate of more than 1,000 meteors at the peak) did occur in 1999 but the intensity was considerably less than figures predicted by astronomers: Viewers saw about 2,500 meteors per hour at the peak under ideal conditions.

Last year (2001) before dawn on November 18, another storm took place over North America. Several thousand meteors per hour were seen during a period lasting a little more than an hour.

This year (2002) around 11:00 UT on November 19, there was a good display over North America but not a storm. At the peak, one would have seen several hundred meteors per hour had not the Moon been so bright. One of Jupiter Scientific's staff members saw about 100 meteors in one-and-a-half hours in less-than-ideal conditions.

Over the last three years, there has been a dramatic improvement in Leonid prediction methods. Astronomers are now able to forecast the times at which Leonid peaks occur. This is important because the appearances of Leonid meteors are concentrated in short periods (of the order of an hour) around the peaks. Estimates of the number of meteors seen are less accurate but have improved.

Unfortunately, it seems that, from 2003 until the next 33 year cycle, the Leonids will not be spectacular.

If you enjoy watching meteors, the most reliable display is the Perseid meteor shower in the second week of August.

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