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Strength of Meteor Shower Has Experts Guessing


Think of it as the Leonid lottery. It’s an annual guessing game among astronomers --professionals and amateurs alike -- vying to forecast how many bits of space dust will zing into Earth’s atmosphere early Sunday morning. Very early Sunday morning.

Some experts think Sunday’s Leonid shower might be the best in years -- thousands of flashes per hour -- while others predict a “ho-hum” display. The peak of action is expected at 5:09 a.m. Sunday on the East Coast in the southern sky. If the sky is cloudy, ho-hum wins.

“It’s not likely to be a really big (meteor) storm,” said astronomer Daniel W.E. Green at the Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. Still, “if you’ve never seen one before, this is a great time to do it. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll see some shooting stars - if the sky is clear.”

“The prediction is for something on the order of 1,000 (meteors) per hour,” Green said. But because Leonid bursts usually last only 15 or 20 minutes, and then taper off abruptly, the total number should be well short of that figure.

The bright flashes are generated by uncountable bits of debris, tiny remnants of comet Tempel-Tuttle, which made its latest close approach to the sun almost four years ago. The Earth is about to pass through the long trail of dust grains that boiled off the comet, which circles the sun once every 33 years.

Study Outlines Nanogenerators In Cancer Fight


New York cancer researchers have developed microscopic generators, so small they’re the size of molecules, and so precise they can release a cascade of atomic fragments inside cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unscathed, according to a study released Friday.

While the work seems as if it’s straight from the pages of science fiction, nanogenerators could become a new way of precisely delivering tiny amounts of radiation to tumors. The treatment also joins the burgeoning area of targeted therapies: tiny generators selectively dock on a specific cancer cell site, slip inside and release a shower of lethal radioactive alpha particles, destroying tumor DNA, and thus the cancer cell itself.

Detailed in Friday’s journal Science, Dr. David Scheinberg and his team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan found that, at least in laboratory mice, the technique worked flawlessly.

The experimental work, he said Thursday in an interview, could lead to human clinical trials as early as next year. Scientists conducting a similar line of research, say nanogenerators could prove a viable treatment approach for metastatic tumors that are widespread throughout the body and have resisted other forms of cancer therapy.