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Thick clouds obscure meteor shower in Beijing
( 2003-11-14 21:53) (Xinhua)

Cloudy skies disappointed many Beijing stargazers braving winter chills and night wind to see the Leonid Meteor Shower (LMS), which was expected to occur before daybreak Friday.

According to astronomers, shooting stars would be seen shortly after the comet called Tempel-Tuttle moves closer to the sun as part of the low-temperature comet breaks into pieces under the heat from the sun.

The meteors would move at the speed of thousands of kilometers per second, and such an amount of kinetic energy turns into enormous heat and emits glaring light when it enters the atmosphere and becomes ionized.

People in Beijing were expected to see about 100 shooting stars an hour if the sky was clear, according to their prediction.

Since Thursday evening, however, clouds have gradually shadowed the sky and many stargazers had to give up their date with the shooting stars.

The LMS will occur again around 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 19, when the day will have already broken in most areas of China and it is impossible to see the shooting stars.

Leonid meteors form in the dust debris of the Tempel-Tuttle comet's tail which orbits the sun every 33 years. The earth crosses the tail every November, and meteor showers occur when the debris is particularly dense.

According to Chinese historical records, meteor showers from the Lyra Comet were witnessed as early as 687 BC.

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