Monday, November 19, 2001

Meteors reward faithful stargazers

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If you were asleep between 4 a.m. and dawn Sunday, you blew it.

        So did the 50 or so stargazing enthusiasts who trekked out to a remote Clermont County site, then left, convinced dense fog would obscure the view of one of the most dramatic meteor showers in decades.

        It didn't.

        The sky cleared in some Tristate corners, where meteors from the much-anticipated Leonids shower lashed across the night sky in a dramatic display of light streaks.

        Astronomers expect another such shower in 2099. Stargazing parties were held around the world, including Greater Cincinnati.

        “About once in a lifetime,” said Scott Naylor of Milford, a member of Friends of the Cincinnati Observatory, a group that set up lawn chairs overnight at Clermont's Stonelick Lake.

        About 75 stayed all night, but nearly that many left.

        “It looked pretty grim, and they started leaving by about 10 (p.m.),” Mr. Naylor said. “There was a meteor about every second, it was great.”

        In Reading, a partially fog-shrouded sky gave way by 4:30 a.m. to clearing. “Leonid” meteors danced across the sky, some leaving light reflections seconds after they fizzled and disappeared.

        The Leonids are minute dust particles shed by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The meteors are called Leonids because they appear to come from the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion.

        The comet swings around the sun once every 33 years, leaving a trail of dust. It most recently passed close to the sun in February 1998. However, the dust particles seen as shooting stars across North America on Sunday were shed during a 1766 pass.

       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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