When you live in a city like New York, it’s astonishing how quickly your definition of “stars” changes from “brilliant multitude of silvery flecks spattered across the inky dark night sky” to “the windows at the top of skyscrapers that look really tiny and far away, and airplane lights.”
For those of us that can no longer imagine what stars look like, tonight’s Leonid meteor shower should be a good refresher. The Leonids, named after the constellation Leo, from which the meteoroids appear to radiate, is associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle. As Earth, reeling through space at high speeds, passes through a cloud of debris from the comet, viewers on the ground are graced with the sight of thousands of shooting stars streaking across the sky. Years when the Leonid is particularly strong, viewers have reported having to brace themselves as they watched, for the feeling of Earth speeding incomprehensibly fast through the darkness was so strong.
So, if you’re still foggy and would like a crash-course in these “star” things I keep talking about, of just want to get a glimpse at the Leonid over our neon city, join CSR and the Columbia astronomy department tonight, Friday, November 16, from 6-8 pm on the 14th floor of Pupin for food, fun, and star gazing. Astronomy department head Joseph Patterson and faculty member Helena Uthas will be there to help us understand meteor shower and to let us view it through the observatory’s telescope (!!).