Sky gazers can expect celestial fireworks Monday

November 16th, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) Sky gazers can expect to see an exhibition of celestial fireworks over the next two days as the night sky will be lit up by the famous Leonid meteor shower expected to peak on Monday. Amateur astronomers of the capital can see about 15 to 20 shooting stars every hour for the next couple of days.

“People can watch for the meteor showers during the early hours Monday. There will be fireballs in the sky,” said N. Rathnashree, director Nehru Planetarium here.

The Leonid showers, known for its outbursts over the period 1998-2002, are the most famous meteors observable during the year.

“You need a simple telescope to watch the meteor showers. People in the capital should move to the outskirts to have a clear look as morning skies these days are covered with fog,” Rathnashree said.

As a general rule, the fast-flying Leonid meteors do not pick up steam until after midnight, and the greatest numbers of meteors would rain down shortly before dawn, she said.

“A meteor is commonly called a shooting star. These shooting stars can be seen on any night, but when the number of meteors is large, it is called a meteor shower,” Rathnashree said.

Meteor showers occur when earth crosses the cometary orbit. As comets move about their orbits they leave a stream of debris because dust and rocky material is liberated from its head as the ice vapourises.

“The meteor showers last for just a fraction of seconds before they are gone. Better keep a close look at the sky for the beautiful show,” Rathnashree said.

The Leonids originate from a comet named Tempel-Tuttle, which makes a visit to the sun every 33 years. They get their name from the location of their radiant (the apparent point of their origin) in the constellation.

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