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Leonid Meteor Shower Sends Pieces of Comet Into Earth's Atmosphere

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RALEIGH — On Monday and Tuesday, Earth will pass through the tail of a comet, and the Leonid Meteor Shower will be a great show if you get to see it.

Clouds will block our view Monday, and the shower itself may threaten the best technology anyone's ever come up with to get a look.

One Web site,Leonids Live, offers a live picture of Japan's starry skies. That's where the Leonid Meteor shower is expected to put on its best show as earth passes through the tail of comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Several mirror sites are also online to satisfy star gazers around the world who do not want to miss the event that only occurs once every 33 years.

"It's just the neat experience that we get of seeing the sky, for once, really seeming to rain meteors," saidMorehead PlanetariumDirector Lee Shapiro.

Shapiro says many people will look for Leonid's leftovers in our skies early Wednesday morning.

Until the sand-like particles hit the atmosphere, Shapiro says the cosmic dust will be invisible, which makes predicting when and where the shower will appear an imperfect science.

"So the predictions can be off since this does only occur every 33 years," Shapiro said. "So it's worth the effort to go out and try to get a look at it."

U.S. military leaders plan to temporarily power down some satellites to avoid even the small threat the meteor shower may cause.

Shapiro does not expect the sandy particles to knock multi-million dollar satellites out of the sky, but he does say, "what they might do if you get some of these small particles coming at 70 kilometers per second, good speed, hitting just the right part of the satellite, you might put it out of commission."

So if the Leonid Meteor Shower does disable some satellites, you might not see some of the Internet pictures of the event in Japan.