Leading article: Heavenly omens

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
SHOOTING STARS are one of the most spectacular sights in astronomy and, like most celestial events, they attract their own brand of superstition. When the Leonid meteors come crashing through our skies tonight they should, if the clouds part, produce more than a dozen streaks a minute. Spectacular yes, but not quite the show of 1833 when the Leonids caused thousands of shooting stars to fall like a heavenly fountain, leading many to believe that the Day of Judgement was at hand.

When the Leonids made their last appearance, in 1966, the only recognisable judgement day was for English football - that famous victory in the World Cup. Science can now explain much of the mystery of the Leonids, such as why they appear about once in 33 years, and why some years are more spectacular than others. It has something to do with the successive trails of icy debris left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which passes by every 33 years.

In our more explicable world, we know it is no more than coincidence that the Leonids will make a reappearance on yet another day of judgement for England. But this time, with a two-goal difference, we can't help wondering whether even the heavenly omens have it in for Scotland.

Comments