- Astronomers and satellite operators are
preparing for the most intense bombardment by meteors since 1966. Our science
correspondent David Whitehouse reports.
- According to scientists at the meeting
of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, a cosmic blizzard due
in November could disable a few satellites in Earth orbit.
- It could also provide a spectacular shooting
star show for skygazers.
- The Leonid meteor swarm, so called because
it appears to come from the constellation of Leo, strikes the Earth every
- Most years it isn't very noticeable.
But every 33 years or so it can produce a storm. The next storm is predicted
later this year or in 1999.
- There are about a dozen major meteor
showers each year, the most famous being the Perseids in August.
- The meteors are tiny grains of dust shed
from a comet. The Leonids come from Comet Temple-Tuttle.
- Satellite operators are preparing plans
to protect their satellites. The Hubble Space Telescope will be pointed
away from the direction of the meteors, the space shuttle will not be in
space at the time and many satellites will be turned so that sensitive
areas are protected.
- According to Dr David Lynch of the Aerospace
Corporation in California thousands of flecks of dust could 'sandblast'
many satellites during the two-hour blizzard. Some satellites could be
- While the storm is a headache for satellite
engineers, astronomers are planning a series of airborne observations to
find out as much about the Leonids as possible.