NOAA 99-073
Contact: Pat Viets


Satellite controllers at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are preparing the nation's environmental satellites for the return of the Leonid Meteor event, currently predicted to peak during the early morning on Nov. 18.

Meteors, popularly known as shooting stars, can be seen on any night, given a sufficiently clear, dark sky. They are produced by the impact on the Earth's atmosphere of small dust grains released from comets. Most meteors arrive in "showers" at fixed times of the year, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of the parent comet.

The Leonid meteor display is associated with the Earth's passage through the Leonid stream. This stream consists of the debris of Tempel-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the Sun about every 33 years. Tempel-Tuttle is the source of debris that gives rise to the Leonid meteor shower that peaks around Nov. 17th each year.

To prepare for the event, NOAA's engineers are modifying configurations for all three types of environmental satellites. NOAA operates the Geostationary Operational
Environmental Satellites (GOES), the Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES), and satellites in the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The satellites are operated by controllers in NOAA's Suitland facility. The satellites provide weather and environmental data vital to forecasting the weather and monitoring the environment.

Spacecraft configuration changes will include the alignment of on-board solar arrays to a position parallel to the storm radiant (or direction) for specific POES and DMSP satellites that, due to their orbital configuration, present a large solar array cross section to the storm radiant. In addition, specific sensors on-board the GOES and DMSP satellites will be reconfigured to better sense attitude or local space environmental disturbances that could be the result of meteoroid impacts. Although some command uploads may be moved to reduce commanding during the predicted peak, satellite data and products will not be impacted.

In addition to the configuration changes, engineering staff will augment the normal operational support during the 24-hour period centered on the predicted storm peak.

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