Meteor storm on November 18 will be worst since 1966
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November 1, 2001 by MW Mandeville
ITEM(S): Meteor storm on November 18 will be worst since 1966
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GLOBAL communications could be disrupted next month by the
most severe meteor storm to strike the Earth since the beginning of
the satellite age.
From the London Times
MONDAY OCTOBER 08 2001
Meteor storm 'will be worst since 1966'
BY MARK HENDERSON, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT
GLOBAL communications could be disrupted next month by the most severe meteor
storm to strike the Earth since the beginning of the satellite age.
An unusually dense shower of space dust will bombard the planet in the early
hours of November 18, producing a spectacular display of shooting stars but
also threatening thousands of satellites with short-circuits.
This years Leonid meteor shower, which happens annually as the Earth passes
through debris left behind by a comet, will be the most severe since 1966 and
easily the worst since more than a handful of satellites have been present in
orbit, scientists predict.
Even though each particle of dust from the Tempel-Tuttle comet weighs less than
a milligram, the particles travel at such high speeds that a direct hit on a
satellite would have a devastating effect, producing a cloud of charged gas
that would short its electrics.
The risk of such an impact for each individual satellite is small about one
in 1,000 but with several thousand satellites orbiting the Earth, it is
highly probable that at least a handful will be disabled or knocked out.
Communications, television, weather, science and military spy satellites could
There will be a big compensation for stargazers, however, bringing the best
chance to see shooting stars in more than three decades.
When the Earth enters the cloud, about 10,000 meteors an hour will be visible
in the sky, compared with the 20 to 30 that are normally seen during the Leonid
The best places in the world to view the event will be the United States and
eastern Asia, but experts are divided over whether the show will be visible
from Britain. One group in the United States has calculated that about 100 to
150 meteors per hour should be present in the skies of Western Europe, but a
British team thinks this unlikely.
There will be another opportunity to see a big Leonid shower next year and
astronomers agree that Britain will see it then. The threat to satellites will
also be repeated. The Leonids are so called because they always appear in the
sky in the position occupied by the constellation Leo.
Some operators will be able to minimise the chances of losing their satellites
by putting them into an orbit away from the side of the Earth on which the
Leonids will strike.
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd. This service is provided on Times
Newspapers' standard terms and conditions. To inquire about a licence to
reproduce material from The Times, visit the Syndication website.
Michael Wells Mandeville, The Hills of Arizona USA at mwman@...
Author of "Return of the Phoenix" at
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