For those who choose wakefulness, the sky lights of the season may offer a grand reward. Do look up.
Astronomers are predicting that the Leonid meteor shower of November 17-18, 2022 is likely to be dazzling—a potentially brilliant and memorable nightsky display.
The Leonid meteor shower is an annual event, peaking each year in mid-November. Astronomers say the 2022 show has potential to be especially memorable.
As Astronomy Magazine put it, “Among the swiftest meteors, the Leonids pack a punch. Fragments penetrate Earth’s atmosphere at 44 miles per second. The smallest particles create swift, needlelike streaks.” Larger fragments can create fireballs.
While there’s no ironclad guarantee that the 2022 star storm will be spectacular, there is a good chance.
News about the possibility of a dazzling display this year caught my attention in particular because it relates directly to what I’ve learned about the astonishing meteor storm of 1833. I came upon that information in the course of researching and writing the biography of a noted Navajo elder.
Here are some relevant meteoric snippets from my drafts of that forthcoming biography:
While telling the story of how signs and inspirations had come to knowledge holders in more recent years (1990s), the elder recalled another era, a time many decades ago when the signs of nature also conveyed essential messages.
“Many of our knowledge holders recollect an earlier period of great significance,” the elder explained. “The year was 1833, and the event was a great shower of lights in the night sky, an event marking the onset of tremendous change. That light shower, called the Great Leonid Meteor Shower by the Western world, has been recognized as one of the greatest celestial displays on record.”
As well documented by astronomers, an extraordinarily vivid space shower sent tens of thousands of meteors per hour streaking across earth’s skies in November, 1833. It was a sight of unforgettable splendor and apparent significance. Some recognized the star shower as a natural wonder of exceeding beauty. Many others saw it as a critical omen.
Irish astronomer Agnes Clerke later noted the historic event with poetic flair in her book A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century.
“A tempest of falling stars broke over the earth,” she wrote. “…The sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs. Their numbers, while the first fury of their coming lasted, were quite beyond counting.”