Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

November 17, 1999
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

A Leonid Meteor Explodes
Credit: ROTSE Team

Explanation: Tonight, a lucky few may see a meteor explode. Over the next 36 hours the Earth will pass unusually close to debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, causing many sand-sized particles from this comet to enter and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. This yearly phenomenon is known as the Leonids Meteor Shower, but the location the Earth passes through this year holds promise to provide particularly high activity. The 1998 Leonids was noteworthy for its many bright meteors. In the above slow-loading sequence, a 1998 Leonid was caught exploding over Los Alamos, New Mexico. In the last one-minute exposure, another Leonid streaks past. If tonight is clear, just grab a lawn chair and a warm jacket, go outside, and look up!

Tomorrow's picture: Serious Meteor

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.