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Leonid meteor shower to light up Ohio sky in November

Courtesy of MCT

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The Leonid meteor shower is scheduled to light up the sky as it does every year in November, peaking around Nov. 17 and 18.
The shower is best known for its shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which produced dense debris.
“They call those meteor storms actually, when they get really strong,” said Kate Grier, an Ohio State graduate student in astronomy.
During such a storm, potentially a thousand meteors can be seen lighting up the sky.
Grier explained that meteor showers are caused by Earth passing through the debris left from comets. She said while comets cause most meteor showers, there is one shower every year caused by an asteroid.
But in the case of the Leonid, the Earth passes through the debris close to its comet, the Tempel-Tuttle. Such an event, which happens about every 33 years, makes the storms more intense.
However, the shower this year isn’t expected to be as powerful compared to previous years.
“I don’t think it’s time for it to be at its best this year,” Grier said, explaining how the Leonids have been decreasing in intensity since their infamous show a decade ago.
While there won’t be a Leonid meteor storm, Grier said this year’s less intense meteor shower should still put on a show.
The Leonids is one of the two yearly showers best known in the U.S. – the other being the Perseid shower.
“It (the Lenoids) tends to be better than a lot of the other ones,” Grier said. “It’s pretty consistently, a pretty good one.”
Richard Pogge, OSU astronomy professor, said viewers can expect to see 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
To see the meteor showers best, Grier recommended Columbus residents take a trip from the light-polluted city to darker areas in surrounding small towns.
Away from the city lights, spectators will have a better chance seeing the lights caused by the comet debris, which Grier described to be “sand-sized pebbles,” when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere.
But since the shower will not be in its prime this year, Grier suggested taking a trip outside the city might not be the best use of time.
The Columbus Astronomical Society meets at Perkins Observatory, close to Delaware, Ohio, on the second Saturday of each month at 8 p.m. to observe the stars. Grier suggested those interested in the Leonids check the group out.
A new way of viewing the meteor showers, and the night sky in general, is scheduled to come to Columbus by next spring with a new state-of-the-art planetarium on the roof of Smith Laboratory. The planetarium will replace the university’s old planetarium, which was closed in June due to water damages from the building’s leaky roof.
Installation of the planetarium is scheduled to begin after the university finishes restorations on the roof.

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