Leonid meteor showers Nov 18 morning
THE MALAY MAIL
Saturday, November 16, 2002
Celestial fireworks on Monday
But this rare and beautiful celestial fireworks display of the Leonid meteor showers may not be as spectacular as in the past because of the glare from the moon.
"It's just two days before a full moon," said Starhunter Astronomical Society adviser Sua Sin Zang yesterday.
"The glare from the moon will have an effect and reduce the number of meteor showers on display." The annual meteor shower takes place every November when the Earth passes through a debris trail left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle which sheds material as it swings near the sun every 33 years.
The tiny fragments, often no bigger than sand grains, heats up and vaporises as they bounce across the upper atmosphere at speeds of about 260,000 km per hour.
The streaking particles produce intense flashes of light, sometimes brighter than the planet Venus or the moon.
The Leonids are known for their exceptional brightness and endurance before disappearing.
The meteor concentration varies sporadically from year to year. It depends on whether the Earth smacks into sparse or thick bands of Leonid debris.
In Malaysia, the earth plows through three comet swarms.
The first will be sighted shortly after midnight on Monday morning, but the peak will be six hours apart on Tuesday.
"However, both spectacular displays cannot be observed because it occurs in daytime," said Sua.
The two displays will occur at noon and 6.40pm, and some 3,500 Leonid showers are expected per hour.
In a similar light show last year, sky watchers in some places saw up to 10,000 meteors an hour. It was the heaviest concentration of Leonids since 1966, when there were an estimated 150,000 shooting stars an hour during peak times.
The Leonids had their origins from the constellation Leo.
Sua said those who are keen to watch the display are invited to attend a star party in Sepang tomorrow night.
The party is free but participants have to bring their own mats to lie down to watch the meteors display.
Those keen must be at the junction to the Sepang F1-Circuit between 10pm and 10.30pm tomorrow. The party will then adjourn to a sighting area in Sepang to witness the display at 2.30am on Monday.
Sua said the society has also set up telescopes for participants to learn about the moon and stars.
For those who want to watch the meteors showers on their own, they can do so with their naked eyes by facing the eastern sky.
The display will be viewed between 45 and 90 degrees on the horizon. The best time to watch is between 2.30am and 4.30am.