The massive meteor shower that convinced people the world was ending
By Dave Kindy
This week’s Geminid meteor shower is expected to be one of the most impressive of the year. According to astronomers, this stellar show — peaking Wednesday night — could produce up to 150 “shooting stars” per hour in white, yellow and even green hues.
As dramatic as that might be, it can’t hold a candle to the Leonid Meteor Shower of 1833. On the night of Nov. 12-13, so many meteors burned through the Earth’s atmosphere that they seemed to turn the night sky into morning. Eyewitnesses claimed the air was filled with brilliant “snowflakes,” while newspapers dubbed it “the shower of stars.” In oral histories, Native American tribes referred to it as “the night the stars fell.”
“It appeared so grand and magnificent as to be truly exhilarating,” Joseph Harvey Waggoner, a Pennsylvania teenager, recalled later. “It was a sight never to be forgotten.”