VOLUME 33, NUMBER 13 THURSDAY, December 6, 2001
ReporterElectronic Highways

Leonids, comets and stars—oh my! And it's all on the Web

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The recent display of the Leonid meteor shower has turned more than a few eyes to the sky. The Leonids signal the annual collision of the Earth with dust particles shed by the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. When these sand- and pebble-sized particles strike the Earth's atmosphere at up to 44 miles per second, they create streaks of superheated air along their path. The 2001 Leonid shower arrived Nov. 18, when viewers in the Americas saw the most dramatic display of these "shooting stars" in nearly 35 years.

More information on the 2001 Leonids can be accessed through any number of Web sites, including NASA's Ames Research Center at http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/. Click on "info@meteors" to view background information on meteors and meteor showers. The "Leonid Storm History" recounts the history of this meteor shower back to the first anecdotal account by Chinese astronomers in 902 AD. Also available are the most recent results of the Research Center's MAC (Multi-instrument Aircraft Campaign) Mission http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/leonidnews.html. Most impressive, however, are the images available via this and another Leonid information site, NASA's Near Live Leonid Watching System http://leonids.hq.nasa.gov/leonids/. The image gallery of the latter includes Leonid images contributed by amateurs and professionals from around the world, who upload their own images to the site. Both NASA sites list numerous links to other meteor and meteor-related Web sites.

In addition to the Leonids, Sky & Telescope (S&T) magazine's Web site http://www.skypub.com/ lists general information for amateur astronomers looking to learn more about meteors, asteroids, comets and other astronomical phenomena. The site links to news, resources and an interesting section on imaging, including the article "Sky Photography With Just A Camera" http://www.skypub.com/imaging/astrophotography/camera.html. Enter the "Gallery of Images" http://www.skypub.com/imaging/gallery/index.shtml to view incredible examples of ground and space-based astrophotography. Click on S&T's "Sights" to access "Special Sky Events" and "Monthly Northern Sky Highlights" to see sky charts, visible planet positions and meteor shower predictions. General information pages useful to the novice sky-gazer include "Meteors: A Primer" and "How to Observe Meteors," as well as links to more in-depth information on the Leonids and other meteor-related organizations and sites.

Those inspired by the recent Leonid storm to learn more about meteors and other astronomical phenomena are encouraged to look at the following Web sites. The Meteoritical Society http://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/metsoc/index1.htm is an international scholarly society formed to promote the study of extraterrestrial materials and their history. This group's publications include Meteoritics & Planetary Science, as well as Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. (The latter is available online to UB Libraries patrons through ScienceDirect at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00167037.)

The American Meteor Society, headquartered at Geneseo State College, is a non-profit, scientific organization established to encourage and support the research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers interested in meteor astronomy. Members of the society are looking for amateur astronomers interested in learning meteor spectroscopy and techniques for collecting surveillance data on meteor-shower activity and related phenomena. To learn more, access the society's Web site at http://www.amsmeteors.org/index.html.

—Brenda Battleson and Austin Booth, University Libraries