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Cosmic Storm Hits Mother Earth

It looks like John Glenn got back to earth just in time, 'cause there's a storm brewing up there on the final frontier.

Every November, Earth crosses the path of a comet called Temple-Tuttle, getting slapped in the atmosphere with debris called the Leonid meteor shower. It's called Leonid, because scientists believe the comet originated in the constellation Leo.

About every 33 years, that comet makes a pretty close pass by the sun. That cooks it enough to release more debris than a normal pass does. Also, in those years, Earth passes by not long after the comet, so a lot of that debris is still hanging around.

This week, this being one of those years, instead of a Leonid shower we'll experience what's known as a Leonid storm, as billions of tiny sand and dust particles collide with Earth's atmosphere.

You and I meet up with similar-sized particles every day, and live to tell the tale. But if you're a piece of high technology on high-speed duty in orbit, you need a little help to try and avoid circuit damage from the electrically charged cloud produced by high-velocity impact.

People here on Earth who control satellites, such as the folks at NASA, are busy with plans designed to help orbiters weather a storm of particles they'll be meeting at about 45 miles per second. That's more than 160,000 per hour.

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