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Leonid Meteor Showers

In 1833, a spectacular storm of the Leonid Meteor showers was observed by thousands of people and reported on by Denison Olmsted in the American Journal of Science and Arts. This led in part to the scientific study of meteors.  One estimate was that 100,000 to 200,000 meteors were observed per hour in the eastern United States.  Many observers clearly reported that the meteors seemed to radiate from a spot in Leo and that, as the constellation moved slowly westward during the night, the radiant point moved with it. Within weeks a Yale mathematician, Denison Olmsted, showed that this radiant point was simply an effect of perspective. The millions of meteors that fell that night had in fact been moving along parallel paths. They appeared to diverge from a point in Leo for the same reason that parallel lines on the ground (such as railroad tracks), appear to diverge from a point on the horizon. Following this realization, the meteors were given the Latin family name for their apparent place of origin: the Leonids.

 Books in our collection:

David Levy's guide to observing meteor showers  by David Levy

Meteor showers : a descriptive catalog by Gary Kronk

The heavens on fire: the great Leonid meteor storms  by Mark Littmann