The Leonid meteor shower is a yearly meteor shower caused by the Comet Tempel-Tuttle on it's 33 year orbit around the sun. Trailing bits of dust, ice and rock are shed by the comet as the sun warms it. These bits of debris enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up in a beautiful firey display. A "large" meteor is about the size of a grain of rice.

This year, 2001, the meteor shower was expected to be at its peak with viewing conditions expected to be excellent worldwide. Astronomers predict the next time a meteor shower of this magnitude will be visible is 2099. According to NASA, observers on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, saw as many as 2600 per hour, and the actual peak (about 11:00 UTC) occured about an hour after the predicted time.

i remember being 5 and hearing about Halley's Comet. My parents took my brother and i to the nearest observatory for a fleeting glimpse at what looked like a fuzzy light bulb to me. For whatever reason, finding out the next time anyone would ever be able to see it would be 86 years later made a big impression on me. i've been looking up ever since.

i hurriedly called some friends saturday and let them know what was going on. i /msg'ed some of you and told you about the impending burning sky. i hope i impressed on you how big this was going to be, or at least how big i wanted it to be. If you did go out to see it because of a /msg, i hope it was everything you expected it to be.

My parents graciously let me squat at their place and bring along whomever i wanted. A motley crew of 6 people drove the hour out to the sticks and we wanted to see the sky burn.

4:45 AM, EST, 6 people were lying down on a tarp in a pasture, cold, tired, smelling horse manure but totally unwilling to get out from under the blankets. The sky was on fire and we all layed there, transfixed, rooted to the spot. Blazes of orange, yellow, red and green(!) flew across the sky like there was no tomorrow. Even though i lived there for 15 years and knew it like the back of my hand, the night sky is amazingly huge when you actually get out where you can see it. The meteors were coming from all directions and angles - it was dizzying and overwhelming and beautiful. The only way i could find to cope with it all was to stare straight up and let my eyes unfocus a bit and just watch.

i don't know how many i saw. Mabye 300, maybe 3000. They were too beautiful and fleeting to number. i stayed there until the morning sun made the sky too light to see anymore. i stood up, woefully underdressed for the 50 degree weather, sleep-deprived, hungry and happy. i watched the sky burn and all i have to show for it is a handful of wishes and a warm, reddish-orangy-yellowy-greenish glow inside of me. Little did i know i would soon end up the same way, that glow being caused by friction as i fell to earth.