ARMAGH ASTRONOMER'S METEOR PREDICTIONS SPOT ON

Armagh Observatory, 22 November 1999:
Predictions by Armagh Observatory astronomer Dr David Asher, regarding the time of the peak activity of the Leonid meteor shower last week, proved to be accurate within 5 minutes. This is the first time that a meteor storm has been predicted with such precision.

The meteor storm peaked just after 2:00am on 18 November with observers at Malaga in Spain reporting 3000 - 4000 shooting stars per hour. Similar sightings were made in the French Provence and the Canary Islands. Dr Asher witnessed the storm under a near cloudless sky from Jordan at the invitation of the Jordanian Astronomical Society, describing the event as "an amazing experience."

The Leonid meteors are produced by debris emitted from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, the comet swings past the Sun in its orbit resulting in the ejection of a fresh batch of material. Dr Asher and his colleague Rob McNaught (Australian National University) concluded that the Earth would pass through a narrow filament of dust which was released by the comet in 1899. Last week's observations provide unprecedented confirmation of his theory, and give crucial new insights into the structure of meteoroid streams.

However, Dr Asher states that "the best is yet to come," for in the years 2001 and 2002 he forecasts that the Leonids will put on an even more spectacular show. In 2001, he currently estimates that 15,000 meteors per hour will be visible, with the best viewing in western Australia and central and eastern Asia. The 2002 storm, peaking at 25,000 meteors per hour, will have two main peaks, the first visible from western Europe and Africa, and the second from North America and Canada.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Dr David Asher, Professor Mark Bailey or John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory.
Tel.: 028-3752-2928,
Fax.: 028-3752-7174,
E-mail: dja@star.arm.ac.uk

See also: Armagh Observatory Leonid Pages

Last Revised: 25th November 1999
WWW contact: webmaster@star.arm.ac.uk
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