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Many science teams, such as the ACE project pictured here, are repositioning satellites so they won't be damaged in the meteor shower.
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Image courtesy of NASA

Meteor Shower May Cause Problem with Spacecraft
News story originally written on November 15, 1998

The Leonids meteor shower is expected to peak on November 17th, 1998. The meteors may cause problems with many different satellites in orbit. The meteors could break the outside skin of the satellites or cause problems with sensitive electronics.

Only a small fraction of the meteors are big enough to break through the skin of a satellite. The chances of this type of problem are very small.

The biggest threat are ionized particles created by very small meteors colliding with a satellite. Even though the meteors can't damage a satellite's hull, they can create an electric field that can damage sensitive electronics inside the satellite.

Some projects such as the Advanced Composition Explorer will power-down the instruments on their satellites. Scientists believe that this will prevent the meteors from doing any damage. The satellites may also be reoriented to shield sensitive equipment or to present the smallest profile toward the meteors.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA