Meteors dazzle viewers in United States, Asia

MOUNT WILSON, Calif. -- Thousands of shooting stars provided a dazzling light show Sunday that amazed veteran and novice stargazers alike as the Leonid meteor show made the moonless sky appear to rain light.

At the peak of the early morning shower, as many as 1,250 meteors per hour streaked overhead, according to NASA estimates.

Atop Mount Wilson, hundreds of cars clogged the road leading to the observatory high above the Los Angeles basin as stargazers sought out dark spots to watch the display.

Patty Ronney, 49, said she had never seen a single meteor before leaving her El Segundo home late Saturday.

"It's getting exciting, because the more I see, the more I want to see. It's such a novel event," Ronney said.

Streak after streak of light shot across the sky as tiny bits of comet debris burned up harmlessly in the atmosphere. The brightest flares left shimmering, smoky trails that hung in the sky for a few seconds.

The shower was less intense than the 4,000 per hour some had predicted, but nonetheless it was a more impressive display than astronomers have seen in years.

The best viewing in the United States was between 3 and 5 a.m.

But many other people across the Asia-Pacific region who had given up a good night's sleep were disappointed by bad weather.

But about 150 Chinese who gathered at midnight on the roof of a 550-year-old Ming Dynasty stone observatory in Beijing were overjoyed when the first meteor tore across the sky.