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Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 08:50 GMT
Shooting stars disappoint
Leonids Nasa
Leonids: Annual meteor shower
Poor weather conditions disappointed the many stargazers in the UK who were hoping to see an impressive display of shooting stars in the early hours of Friday and Saturday.

In many areas of the country, cloud obscured the night sky and a good view of the meteor shower known as the Leonids, so called because the light show appears to emerge from the constellation of Leo, was hard to find.

Even where there were clear patches of sky, the Moon outshone all but the brightest meteors.

Last year, astronomers and stargazers were treated to a display that reached up to 4,000 meteors per hour.

Annual show

The annual light show is caused by the passing of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a huge ball of primordial ice and dust thought to have been orbiting the Sun for at least a thousand years.

The comet swings through the inner Solar System every 33 years, laying down a trail of dust as it goes. It was last here in 1988.

The Leonids are caused when the Earth passes through the dusty debris that follows the comet's orbit.

Most particles are no bigger than a grain of sand. These hit the Earth's atmosphere at up to 70km per second.

More impressive fireballs are meteors that are just a few centimetres in diameter.

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See also:

23 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Leonid strikes the Moon
18 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
World marvels at meteors
18 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
In the Leonids' lair
21 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Sound of shooting stars
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