Will the Leonid meteor shower go away? (Beginner)

On the radio it said this is the last Leonid meter shower. I saw it last year and hope to see it again this year. Why are they not coming back?

The good news is that the Leonids won't go away entirely, but the bad news is that they will not be nearly as exciting as they have been the last few years.

Meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through the path of a comet. The comet responsible for the Leonids, Comet Temple-Tuttle, passed by in 1998. As comets approach the Sun, they heat up, spewing ice and dust. When the dust from the comet hits the Earth's atmosphere, it heats up, creating a glowing path--a meteor! Since 1998, the Leonids have been very nice, with many meteors. However, you can imagine that as time goes by, the dust spreads out, so the meteor storms become less intense. Next year, the meteor shower will be weaker than this year, and it will be weaker still with each passing year. However, local knots with higher concentrations of particles are still possible.

We'll have to wait until 2031 for Temple-Tuttle to return, and renew the Leonids, to see showers as intense as those of 2002, but in the meantime, other comets will produce other meteor showers.

Last checked on July 18, 2015.

About the Author

Britt Scharringhausen

Britt studies the rings of Saturn. She got her PhD from Cornell in 2006 and is now a Professor at Beloit College in Wisconson.

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