This evening, students have the opportunity to view a unique celestial

event. The Leonid meteor storm will take place tonight around midnight and

should continue through the early morning.

Paul Lewis, head of UT's Physics and Astronomy Outreach, is conducting a

public viewing of the Leonid meteor storm tonight at Big South Fork

National River and Recreation Area. The viewing is set for 10 p.m. at Big

South Fork's Bandy Creek Campground. For directions, call the visitor's

center at 931-879-3625.

"This meteor storm could be the astronomical opportunity of a lifetime,"

Lewis said. "Typical meteor showers bring 20-100 meteors per hour. This

event has the potential for more than 1,000 meteors per hour."

Mark Littmann, Chair of Excellence in science and writing at UT,

authored The Heavens on Fire: The Great Leonid Meteor Storms by

Cambridge Press. Littmann said the meteors are more visible this year

because the Earth and comet Tempel-Tuttle pass at about the same time

through the stream of space dust and debris that causes the shower.

This combination of events would not happen again for 99 years, he


"This could be the most spectacular shooting star show of the century,"

Littmann said. "In 1833 and 1966, Leonid meteors poured down at rates of 40

per second. "No one knows for sure how many will be seen this time, but it

will be the last, best opportunity for a long time."

Littmann is currently in Portugal for a better view of the event.

To best observe the event at home or on campus, the UT Astronomy

Information line recommends finding a dark portion of the sky around

midnight. For more information contact Paul Lewis at 974-7815.