The Leonid meteor shower of 2010 may not have dazzled, but it still caught the eyes of die-hard skywatchers who awoke before dawn today to catch the moderate shooting star show at its peak.
Skywatcher Jim Gamble of El Paso, Texas has been observing the Leonids meteor display throughout the month. He used an all-sky camera to record the bright streaks created by the meteors and created a composite snapshot of this year's Leonids shower between Nov. 13 and today (Nov. 18). [Gamble's composite photo of the Leonid meteor shower]
"Not the best show ... but respectable," Gamble told SPACE.com today.
The Leonid meteor shower returns every year in mid-November. It occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of dust leftover from the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The material hits the atmosphere and then flares up as "shooting stars."
When the Earth passes through the denser parts of the stream, the meteor count can soar to hundreds or thousands in an hour. [Gallery: Spectacular Leonid Meteor Shower Photos]
This year, however, the Earth is passing through a less dense part of the comet debris stream, astronomers have said.
The Leonid meteor shower of 2010 promised between 15 and 20 meteors an hour for skywatchers graced with clear skies, according to predictions from meteor experts. The best time to observe the show was in the hours before sunrise on Wednesday (Nov. 17) and today.
International meteor counts have officially pegged this year's Leonids at less than 25 meteors an hour, according to the website Spaceweather.com, which monitors space weather and skywatching events.
Still, the promise of only a modest meteor show did not dissuade avid meteor gazers.
In Jerusalem, skywatcher Yaron Eini made it a group event, but was sure everyone bundled up warm while observing.
"We had a nice weather for this season," Eini told Spaceweather.com. "It was comfortable for us to lay down in our sleeping bags and enjoy the modest Leonids meteor shower."
The next major meteor show for skywatchers will be the Geminid meteor shower, which will peak on Dec.13 and 14.
This article was reprinted with permission from SPACE.com.
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