Cover image for The heavens on fire : the great Leonid meteor storms
The heavens on fire : the great Leonid meteor storms
Littmann, Mark, 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 349 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Night the stars fell -- Sifting -- Struggling to understand meteors -- November meteors in history -- Critics attack -- Discovery of the August meteors -- 1866: the first predicted return -- Meteor-comet connection -- Meters for meteors -- coming fire shower: 1899 -- World's safest fireworks display: 1932 -- New horizons in meteor science -- Suprise: 1966 -- Killer comets and dis-asteroids -- Catch a falling star -- Prospects for 1998, 1999, and 2000 -- Journey of a meteoroid.
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QB745 .L58 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Imagine the night sky so full of shooting stars that the firmament itself seems to be crashing to Earth. When the most spectacular of all meteor showers - the Leonids - passed in 1966, observers saw 40 every second. In 1833, three widely-separated observers described the Leonid storm as 'the heavens on fire'. The returning Leonids are now reaching their peak with great activity expected in mid-November in the next couple of years. The Heavens on Fire vividly tells the history of meteors, and especially the Leonids, whose terrifying beauty established meteor science. Mark Littmann traces the history and mythology of meteors, profiles the fascinating figures whose discoveries advanced the field, and explores how meteors have changed the course of life on Earth. He offers advice on how and where to make the best of the forthcoming Leonid storms.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

On the night of November 12, 1833, citizens all along the eastern seaboard of the US were brought from their beds by what may have been the greatest meteor display in history. Too numerous to count, the meteors, later known as the Leonids, were described as "plentiful as snowflakes." Later estimates placed them at more than 72,000 per hour. More than a century later, in 1966, the southwestern US was treated to a similar display. In the mid-19th century, many scientists thought meteors to be an atmospheric phenomenon, a misconception dating back 2200 years to Aristotle. Littmann has done an excellent job in describing how scientists, after the 1833 storm, determined the cometary origin of Leonids, their path about the sun, and why, though appearing each November, they tend to intensify on a 33-year cycle. Indeed, while the Leonids gave an impressive shower in Europe in 1866, their failure to live up to expectations in 1899 and 1932 caught astronomers literally asleep when the 1966 storm erupted. Now there is fear that communication and military satellites may be damaged by the expected storm in November 1999. A very readable work; many illustrations, chapter notes, and extensive bibliography. Highly recommended. All levels. C. G. Wood formerly, Eastern Maine Technical College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
1 The night the stars fellp. 1
2 Siftingp. 13
3 Struggling to understand meteorsp. 35
4 The November meteors in historyp. 53
5 The critics attackp. 65
6 The discovery of the August meteorsp. 83
7 1866: the first predicted returnp. 101
8 The meteor-comet connectionp. 117
9 Meters for meteorsp. 145
10 The coming fire shower - 1899p. 159
11 The world's safest fireworks display - 1932p. 173
12 New horizons in meteor sciencep. 191
13 Suprise - 1966p. 205
14 Killer comets and dis-asteroidsp. 221
15 Catch a falling starp. 253
16 Prospects for 1999 and 2000p. 269
17 The journey of a meteoroidp. 301
Glossaryp. 313
Bibliographyp. 321
Indexp. 343