Scoping Out The Storm

It was nail-biting time at satellite operations centers around the world Tuesday as the earth passed through the peak of the Leonid meteor storm, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

The meteors are bits of debris left behind by the comet Temple Tuttle. They burn up in the earth's atmosphere so there's no danger on earth, but a direct hit could knock out a satellite.

But what was worrying for satellite operators provided thrills overnight around the world. Russian sky-watchers saw a fire ball. Over Luxembourg, the falling stars fell like a light rain. Near Albuquerque the desert sky put on its own fireworks show.

The meteor storm was expected to be at its best over Japan, but some of those who spent a cold night looking up were not impressed. "I've been here six hours and seen only twenty," one observer said.

Still, for scientists, the meteor storm provided a unique research opportunity. Dr. Jack Drummond at the Starfire Optical Range, stayed up all night, and he's glad he did.

"This is one of the more spectacular things I've ever seen," says Drummond.

The earth's satellite system seems to have survived this meteor storm, but astronomers say there could be more stormy weather in space same time next year.