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Meteor Storm History....

The following is from:

The Geography Of The Heavens and Class-Book Of Astronomy, by Elijah H. Burritt, A.M., greatly enlarged, revised and illustrated, by H. Mattison, A.M., New York, published by Mason Brothers, 1863

"The number of shooting stars observed in a single night, though variable, is commonly very small. There are however, several instances on record of them falling in "showers" - when every star in the firmament seems loosened from its sphere, and moving in lawless flight from one end of the heavens to the other.

"As early as 472, in the month of November, a phenomenon of this kind took place near Constantinople. As Theophanes relates, "the sky appeared to be on fire," with the coruscations of the flying meteors. "A shower of stars exactly similar took place in Canada, between the third and the fourth of July, 1814, and another in Montreal, in November, 1819. In all of these cases, a residuum, or black dust , was deposited upon the surface of the waters, and upon the roofs of buildings, and other objects. In the year 1810, "inflamed substances", it is said, fell into, and around lake Van, in Armenia, which stained the water of a blood color, and cleft the earth in various places. On the 5th of September, 1819, a like phenomenon was seen if Moravia. History furnishes many more instances of meteoric showers, depositing a red dust in some places, so plentiful as to admit of chemical analysis.

"The commisioner of our government who was sent out to fix the boundary between the Spanish possessions in North America and the United States, witnessed a very extrodinary flight of shooting stars, which filled the whole atmosphere from Cape Florida to the West India Islands. This grand phenomenon took place the 12th of November, 1799, and is thus described: - 'I was called up,' says Mr. Ellicott, 'about 3 o'clock in the morning, to see the shooting stars, as they are called. The phenomenon was grand and awful. The whole heavens appeared as if illuminated with skyrockets, which disappeared only by the light of the sun, after daybreak. The meteors, which at any one instant of time appeared as numerous as the stars, flew in all possible directions except from the earth, toward which they all inclined, more or less, and some of them descended perpendicularly over the vessel we were in, so that I was in constant expectation of their falling on us.'

"Mr. Ellicott further states that his thermometer, which had been at 80° F for the first 4 days preceding, fell to 56° about 4 o'clock AM, and that nearly at the same time, the wind changed from the south to the northwest, from wence it blew with great violence for 3 days without intermission.

"The celebrated Humbolt...[snip]...speaks of the phenomenon:-'Toward the morning of the 13th of November, 1799, we witnessed a most extraordinary scene of shooting meteors. Thousands of bolides, and falling stars succeeded each other during 4 hours. Their directionwas very regular from north to south. From the beginning of the phenomenon there was not a space in the firmament, equal in extent to 3 diameters of the moon, which was not filled every instant with bolides or falling stars. All the meteors left luminous traces, or phosphorescent bands behind them, which lasted 7 or 8 seconds."

[snip] "But the most sublime phenomenon of shooting stars, of which the world has furnished any record, was witnessed throughout the United States on the morning of the 13th of November, 1833. The entire extent of this astonishing exhibit has not been precisely asertained, but it covered no inconsiderable portion of the earth's surface. It has been traced from longitude 61°, in the Atlantic Ocean, to longitude 100° in Central Mexico, and from the North American lakes to the West Indies. It was not seen, however, anywhere in Europe, nor in South America, nor in any part of the Pacific Ocean yet heard from."

Information collector: Jane Houston Jones,

California Meteor Society and San Jose Astronomical Association


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Last update: 2009-02-15 11:50 PM