Leonids 2003

University of Alberta observatory domes


"Thank you so much for visiting our class on Friday! The kids loved it...they thought it was pretty cool to meet a "real" Astronomer! Thanks again, Janine"

Leonids 2003 forecast

Five years have passed since Comet Tempel-Tuttle made its last pass in 1998. At the time there was great anticipation that there would be greatly enhanced activity in the Leonid meteor shower in upcoming years. Those expectations have indeed been rewarded, with reports of spectacular showers and/or storms of meteors and fireballs in each year since. Great advances have been made in the science of modeling the individual filaments of debris released by the comet during each of its recent passages of the Sun, and predicting Earth’s passage through them. 

Alas, all good things must end, and the comet has now receded far enough that the clumps of debris trailing it have, according to the modelers, now moved beyond Earth’s orbit as well. Therefore, in 2003 the Leonids have generally been predicted to return to “normal” levels of 10-20 meteors per hour, peaking in the pre-dawn hours of November 18. Of course, “normal” for the Leonids still means extremely swift meteors (71 km/s) with a good percentage of fireballs. 

Some meteor scientists have predicted moderately enhanced levels of activity on November 19, 2003, around 07:28 UT (00:28 MST), as the Earth passes through the outskirts of a filament laid down by Tempel-Tuttle during its 1533 passage. 

Observation of the Leonids in 2003 and immediately subsequent years remains a valuable pursuit. For one thing, the modelers could be wrong about the length of the trailing filaments. While predictions have been moderately successful, there has been no shortage of surprises. Even a return to normal levels of activity is of itself a valuable observation. 

Visual observation of the shower will be hampered by a waning Moon just past third quarter and unfortunately close to Leo. Radio observations will have no such concerns. Even significantly reduced levels of meteors will provide a useful baseline against which to compare the high rates of activity recorded by Sky Scan detectors in 2001 and 2002. 

More on expectations for 2003 can be found on Gary Kronk’s outstanding Comets & Meteors page, at: http://comets.amsmeteors.org/meteors/showers/leonidprediction.html.


Copyright © 1999-2015 by Sky Scan, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the 

Edmonton Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Department of Physics (University of Alberta)

and the

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Home    Site Map   Search   FAQ    Links   About Sky Scan   Webmaster  Contact Us