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usm-red.gif (836 bytes)Meteor Storm in the sky
Leonid Meteor on 17th Nov .
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by Sangram Guha

cometsh.jpg (6979 bytes)It will be the lion's day late tonight when the ``Leonid Meteor'' storm gathers momentum high above us and showers all its spleandour on the earth below. And not for once; the shower will be seen even on the next night and all Calcutta will be witness to one of the greatest celestial shows which recurs every 33 years. And to cap it all, the interest that has been generated may give rise to a greater understanding of celestial movements and help intensified scientific research.

The Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha has been holding series of meetings and seminars for the last few weeks and the estimate by experts reveal that this time, like that during the celebrated year of 1833, the number of meteors flashing across the skies between 2 am and 3 am would be around 2 lakh a minute. The sight of the gods would be best visible in regions of Orissa and the North East but even Calcutta would do for a good sighting. Seventy-one meteor camps have been organised by the Mancha and one is reminded of the huge interest generated during the reappearance of the Halley's Comet some years back as much as the total solar eclipse which was witnessed in Calcutta in the late Seventies.

The maximum number of such camps spread over 18 districts in the state of West Bengal are in Bardhaman from where the sighting will be the best. More than two lakh people are expected to participate in the sighting.

Naturally, most of the organisations, which have shown a scientific interest in the phenomenon, have roped in almost all the schools and colleges and the student community will take active part. More than 12,000 schools and colleges are expected to participate. However, the interesting feature of the phenomenon this time as opposed to the Halley's Comet and solar eclipse incidents, is the fact that the sighting will take place only very late in the night and thus may be a sort of handicap for those who are unused to stay up late. But the very exclusivity of the incident has made the meteor show something which will be written about for a long time.

Apart from the scientific interest that the shower has generated, it is also extremely significant that a large number of painters and photographers have taken it upon themselves to record the incident for posterity either on canvas or on celluloid. The meteor show in 1833 was a grand affair; unfortunately, we cannot expect to have any eye-witness around; neither are there any photographs available. What we have are written records and some paintings by artists who were too dazzled by the meteor flash to keep an objective account for history.

This time, with the advancement of science and technology, we are a luckier lot. What this meteor flash has to prescribe for the next generation could be anybody's guess but the fact is that we will be definitely be richer by the experience.

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