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The Heavens on Fire: The Great Leonid Meteor Storms

Out of Print

By: Mark Littmann

359 pages, 2 line diagrams, 2 tables, 3 maps

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Sep 1999 | #108556 | ISBN: 0521779790
Out of Print Details

About this book

Imagine the night sky so full of shooting stars that the firmament itself seems to be crashing to Earth. When the most spectacular of all meteor showers - the Leonids - passed in 1966, observers saw 40 every second. In 1833, three widely-separated observers described the Leonid storm as 'the heavens on fire'. The returning Leonids are now reaching their peak with great activity expected in mid-November in the next couple of years. The Heavens on Fire vividly tells the history of meteors, and especially the Leonids, whose terrifying beauty established meteor science. Mark Littmann traces the history and mythology of meteors, profiles the fascinating figures whose discoveries advanced the field, and explores how meteors have changed the course of life on Earth. He offers advice on how and where to make the best of the forthcoming Leonid storms.

'This work represents a unique achievement as it is the first full-length book ever written on the subject of an individual meteor shower - the Leonids ! Overall this is an excellent reference for anyone with an interest in the history of the Leonid meteors or who wants to try to observe the possible storms of the next few years. The writing is very accessible to non specialists, but detailed enough to make it a must-have for meteor enthusiasts.' Peter Brown, Sky and Telescope 'Littmann tells his story with real flair.' Nature 'It is one of those remarkable books that is, at the same time, an authoritative history, a well written and lucid text on the scientific phenomena and a great read. Using a combination ! Littmann walks the reader through the topic in a thoroughly enjoyable fashion ! Readers will find Littmann's book an excellent, and highly recommended, introduction to this research area.' Donald K. Yeomans, Spectrum ' ! a superb description of the Leonid and other meteor showers.' Richard McKim, School Science Review ' ! a captivating account of the history and science of one of astronomy's rarest and most wondrous events. The text is nicely illustrated, and a generous sprinkling of vignettes throughout the book enriches the Leonid story by providing glimpses into the lives of the astronomers involved, and many other topics. Litmann's lucid writing style and attention to historical detail will make this book very appealing to anyone interested in the history of astronomy or general astronomy, and it should be part of any meteor-enthusiast's library.' Richard Sanderson, Journal for the History of Astronomy ' ! a very useful work of reference and interest to both professional astronomers wanting to know more about the historical background and to non-scientists who want an introduction to the subject.' Robin M. Catchpole, The Observatory ' ! a fascinating story, told in great detail, full of interesting historical vigettes of the many protagonists, and very well explained in an easily understood style ! There is a great deal of interesting and useful information in this beautifully produced book.' Astronomy Now 'This book is suitable for anyone with an interest in astronomy. ! very much worth recommending, well illustrated and free from errors. To sum up, a compelling read.' Colin Steele, Journal of British Astronomical Association


1. The night the stars fell; 2. Sifting; 3. Struggling to understand meteors; 4. The November meteors in history; 5. The critics attack; 6. The discovery of the August meteors; 7. 1866: the first predicted return; 8. The comet-meteor connection; 9. Meters for meteors; 10. The coming fire shower - 1899; 11. The world's safest fireworks display - 1932; 12. New horizons in meteor science; 13. Surprise - 1966; 14. Killer comets and dis-asteroids; 15. Catch a falling star; 16. Prospects for 1998, 1999, and 2000; 17. The journey of a meteoroid; Glossary; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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