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 present a hazard to many different satellites in orbit. This hazard could come in the form of pierced skins or electronic disruptions due to impacts with meteors.

Even though most of the meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, they are moving over 155,000 miles per hour. At that speed, the tiny meteors can carry the same momentum as a .22 caliber bullet. A direct impact from a speck-sized meteor could pierce the hull of a satellite. But, that is not scientists' main concern.

The chances of an impact with a meteor large enough to pierce the hull are very small. The real danger is caused by smaller, more numerous meteors which won't damage the hull itself but may cause problems with electronics inside the satellite.

The smaller meteors can vaporize on impact with spacecraft and create a plume of ionized particles. These particles can create electric fields in the satellites which might damage sensitive circuitry.

To try and minimize any damage, project members such as those for the Advanced Composition Explorer may power-down their satellites. They may also reorient their satellites to either shield sensitive equipment or to present the smallest profile toward the meteor stream.

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