With a possible "storm" of Leonid meteors due in 1998 or 1999 November, interest in the Leonids is once again at a peak. The history of the Leonids is of particular importance, not only because they are closely associated with the origins of meteor science, but also because historical observations extending back a millennium are a substantial aid in increasing our knowledge of the Leonid meteor stream. Leonid history is thus a prime example of applied historical astronomy. In this review paper, we recount the origins of meteor science with the Leonids, the discovery of the historical observations and their scientific and cultural interpretations, and the application of this information to characterize the meteor stream and to predict the strength of the 1998-1999 event. These predictions are now of more than passing interest, as meteor storms pose a potential threat to spacecraft.
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
- Pub Date:
- June 1998
- meteor stream;
- solar system