The 1866 Leonids as seen from Liverpool
The scientific section of the Liverpool and Historic Society held a meeting last evening (Thursday 15th November 1866) at the Free Library, William Brown-street.
Mr Wittingsall of Warrington presided.—Mr. Sansome opened a discussion on the meteoric showers on Wednesday morning. He said that he had been told by some men who were up all night that the finest display was at three o'clock the morning—much more numerous than in the early part of the night. He himself saw the meteors between one and half-past one, and there were three or four coming at time. He saw two fall apparently side by side, just like two streaks of fire. The larger ones were very brilliant. two appeared very much like large blue light falling, and threw a sort of halo round them. They left a streak of fire like a tail, and it was three or four seconds before it went out.
He saw some of the larger ones that certainly must have left a streak of fire of forty-five degrees. In a book treating of astronomy he found it mentioned that Boston in 1833, there was immerse shower if meteors. It was calculated that 39,000 stars fell each hour for seven hours, making a total of 273,000. It must, however, be recollected that that calculation was not made until the phenomenon was considerably on the decline. He had not seen any of the observations made during the present fall, but from what had learned from unscientific observers of what the fall was at about three o'clock in the morning, it must have been quite numerous it was at Boston in 1833. There was one thing to be said about this time, namely, that the sky was very much obscured with clouds for some considerable time, and it was only between those clouds that he had a view of the stars.
Mr J. Harding said he had stated in some of the papers that one or two of the meteors lasted for a minute.
Mr. Sansome said he did not think that could be; they died away in few seconds.
Mr. N. Waterhouse said he observed that in the eastern part of the sky the stars fell six at once, and the in the western sky three or four at once. They did not last more than three or four seconds each. He did not know whether they had any full or accurate idea of what the meteors were, but it struck him that they must merely of gaseous character. Some times there was a train, sometimes no train, and very often the head entirely disappeared whilst the train left in the sky. Sometimes the ball moved without any train, but there was a wriggling in the motion, and it was not always directly forward. He did not think they could lay claim they had seen as many as the Americans did in 1833.
Mr. Sansome said one theory was, that the meteors were planets moving very rapidly forward in opposite direction the earth, consequently they appeared to move much more rapidly than they actually did.
Mr. T. Gibson jun, said he observed the phenomena from 12 o'clock to 20 minutes to 1, and between 12 exactly and 29 minutes past counted in 100 in an arch of about one third the sky. He looked towards the east. The most he saw to fall at once were four—three very brilliant ones, and one without a tail. Some of them had a very wavy motion. Of the 100 which he counted, three were due north and south, the rest were nearly all east and west. Some them were exceedingly brilliant. One was so brilliant that in crossing the hall in the dark, after he had put out all the gasses, it quite lighted the hall, so that could see the whole of the stairs down below. He counted in the east about 280 hour, and in the west about 300.
Mr. Water house remarked that it looked like the bombardment of a town.
Mr. Sansome said that it appeared to him that they lost sight of the stars as soon as they came to certain height in the horizon—as soon as they came within the range of oar atmosphere. He thought our atmosphere was too dense to allow us to see them.
Mr. Waterhouse said they did not seem to be at great distance from the earth.
Mr. T. Gibson, jun., said they seemed to him to become luminous on reaching our atmosphere. They came within the region of air which illuminated them at once, and then they burned themselves out.
This closed the discussion