Meteor Alert

Next week's Leonids promise a stellar sky show but pose a risk to orbiting spacecraft

It was about midnight when the astronomy buffs gathered atop Arizona's 7,000-ft. Kitt Peak spotted the first shooting stars streaking across the cloudless night sky. Then, slowly, the glowing trails began to multiply. Twenty an hour, then 30 and 40, until at 5 a.m. the sky erupted in a furious but eerily silent meteor storm that brightened the sky like a pyrotechnic grand finale. Some of the spectators instinctively shielded their faces, startled by the sensation of hurtling headlong into a cloud of flashing debris. An hour--and some 140,000 meteors--later, it was largely over; the storm waned and finally disappeared in...

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