Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Chasin' Meteors In An Electra
Washington - November 11, 1998 - Two research aircraft carrying new scientific observing instruments and high-definition TV cameras will seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe the Leonids meteor shower on November 17, 1998.

An L-188C Electra, owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. will be joined by an Air Force KC-135 in the night skies over Okinawa, Japan, during the meteor storm.

"The NSF Electra is an ideal platform to participate in the Leonids meteor experiment," says Cliff Jacobs, program manager in NSF's division of atmospheric sciences, which funds NCAR. "Its ability to accommodate multiple state-of-the-art, upward-looking instruments will provide an exceptional opportunity to study these meteors."

The meteor storm will occur when Earth enters the dense debris behind Temple-Tuttle on November 17, 1998, and again on November 18, 1999. Although the comet returns every 33 years, its orbit crosses Earth's only once every hundred years.

This century's crossing offers scientists a close look at the trails of unusually fresh and large (millimeter- to centimeter-size) meteors entering the earth's atmosphere at the fastest possible speeds -- 72 kilometers per second (160,000 miles per hour). Best observations will be from East Asia (China and Japan). Next year, Europe and North Africa will offer the best viewing. From the ground, the source of the storm appears in the constellation Leo.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is heading the experiment, which is the first mission in NASA's Astrobiology Program, created to study the origin and prevalence of life in the universe. The Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign is also supported by NSF, the U.S. Air Force, and NHK Japanese television.

The two aircraft are needed to take the observing instruments into clear skies above the weather-laden lower atmosphere. The Air Force's FISTA (Flying Infrared Signatures Technology Aircraft) will circle the NSF/NCAR Electra in a racetrack pattern between 30,000 and 40,000 feet while the Electra flies back and forth (north-south) about 10,000 feet lower within the loop. At these altitudes (7 to 10 kilometers, or roughly 4 to 6 miles) both planes will be safe from the meteors above, which will burn up at 100 to 120 kilometers (60 to 75 miles) above the ground.

A major scientific goal of the mission is to determine how a meteor's mass compares to its brightness. To date, scientists can only guess how much material enters the atmosphere during a meteor shower. The Electra will carry a dual-beam lidar (laser-based radar) built this year to detect iron vaporized from the meteors in the upper atmosphere. Says NCAR project manager Bruce Morley, "We know very little about iron in the atmosphere and even less about the iron contribution from meteors. Observing just one meteor accurately from the sky would make a big difference to our understanding."

Leonids on the Internet

  • Leiden Leonid site
  • ESA science site:
  • ESOC report on Meteor showers
  • Meteor trail animation
  • Leiden univ. Leonids site
  • International meteor organisation
  • Leonid's at NASA
  • Leonid's at AirForce
  • Calculate Leonid spacecraft impact probability
  • More Leonids At NASA
  • Leonids In Canada

    Leonids at Spacer.Com

  • ESA To Watch Hubble Tremors From Leonid's Impacts
  • Air Force Gears Up For Leonids
  • CRESTech To The Rescue
  • Leonid Danger Elevated But Not Serious
  • Satellites May Be Shattered By Invisible Meteors
  • Leonid Conference Established at Aerospace



    Thanks for being here;
    We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

    With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

    Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

    If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

    SpaceDaily Contributor
    $5 Billed Once


    credit card or paypal
    SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
    $5 Billed Monthly


    paypal only






    Memory Foam Mattress Review
    Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
    XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.