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Published: Thursday, 11/16/2000

Clouds may obscure area view of meteors

Clouds will obscure a celestial event that occurs only a few times a generation, forecasters said yesterday.

The Leonid meteor showers are expected to light up the night skies after midnight Saturday - as they did in November, 1998 and 1999 - and won't reappear for about 33 years, said Dr. Dale W. Smith, planetarium director at Bowling Green State University.

Sky watchers in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are likely to see only clouds and another type of shower - snow.

A cold front moves into the area today from the plains, Kari Chessario, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting service in State College, Pa., said. Rain showers are expected this afternoon, with a high in the lower 40s.

But tomorrow and tomorrow night will be cloudy, with a few snow showers.

The high will be 36 and the low 32. Light accumulation is possible, Ms. Chessario said.

The meteors are bits of debris - often no bigger than grains of sand - from broken up comets, Dr. Smith said. The grains of debris follow the orbit of the former comet and, as with the Leonid shower, they're seen as shooting stars when Earth plows into their path and they hit the atmosphere.

“They burn up in the atmosphere,” Dr. Smith said. “As each one burns up, we see a little light.”

Should there be a glimpse of sky, Dr. Smith recommends watching from a dark spot free of trees or other obstructions. The meteor showers will be in the eastern sky.

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