November 12-13, 1833: The Night the Stars Fell

On the night of November 12-13, 1833, a spectacular meteor storm over North America created the appearance of millions of shooting stars raining down from the sky. The phenomenon, known as the Leonid Meteor Storm, both amazed and terrified those who witnessed it when as many as 150,000 meteors per hour fell like fiery snowflakes from the sky.

Vermont Telegraph: November 21, 1833

Each year in November, the earth’s orbit passes through a band of meteorites known as Leonids because they appear to emanate from the constellation Leo. The Leonids are countless fragments of ice, rock, and dust left behind by the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. About every 33 years, the Leonid meteor shower intensifies, increasing the possibility of a dazzling display of lights. Such was the case in 1833 when the Leonid Meteor Storm put on a spectacular show.

Those who arose were treated to a spectacle like they had never experienced.  Many religious-minded people assumed the falling stars were the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

A professor at Yale College, Denison Olmstead, published a public plea in the newspapers, asking people to document what they’d seen so he could study the phenomenon further. He published his groundbreaking findings in a scientific journal the following year, connecting the meteor storm to a comet that revolves around the sun.

This year, the Leonid meteor shower will peak on November 17, though scientists say the activity won’t come close to the 1833 event. If you want to learn more about the Leonid meteor shower and read first-hand accounts from those who were there, search™ today.

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18 thoughts on “November 12-13, 1833: The Night the Stars Fell

  1. Excellent story! Thank you for posting it. I can imagine how it might frighten some people who witnessed it.

    1. I’ve always wondered how my ancestors felt about things like this but they usually didn’t share things like this but would answer if asked. As a child I didn’t ask. :>( As I’ve grown older, my cousins have been a good source of “information” usually preficied by “Did you hear the one about…?”

    2. I’ve always wondered how my ancestors felt about things like this but they usually didn’t share things like this. But would answer if asked. As a child I didn’t ask. :>( As I’ve grown older, my cousins have been a good source of “information” usually preficied by “Did you hear the one about…?”

      1. Yes, sadly, as a child or young adult, I didn’t ask my grandparents. However, my parents lived to be in their 90s and I learned a lot about their lives, as I asked specific questions.
        Happily, I’ve a subscription in I’ve learned many things from that source re: an array of interesting things of my grandparents, et al that i’d never otherwise have known.

  2. Not “a band of meteorites.” They are only meteorites if they survive to hit the earth (or the moon or another planet).

    1. Since we have been told for years that they are meteorites, your denial is currently useless. So rather than just telling us what they aren’t, maybe you can tell us what they are?

  3. This is very interesting to me. My great Aunt, (born 1886) mentioned in a book, “Earth Has No Sorrows” by Dee Azadian, page 87, 1977, that her grandmother born in 1820, had told her that “when she was nine years old, the stars fell.” So, according to these dates, she would have been about 13 years old. Incredible….thank you for this info.

  4. It says it hits every 33 years. If it hit in 1833 then by 33’s it hit in 1998, then 2031….how is it going to hit this year?

    1. This year is not expected to be very big. There was a pretty big showing in 1966, but nothing has compared to the 1833 event.

  5. I was in the army in 1966 Texas. It was linen day, the day we removed our bedding and exchanged for clean. We had to take it outside and to the quartermasters located at the end of our barracks. It was dark, as soldiers begin their day early, and I thought I saw flashes out of the corner of my eye in the sky. When I went back upstairs, the soldier assigned to stay awake all night, had the window open and was looking into the sky. It was then that I found out about the meteor shower. I went up onto the flat roof and watched the spectacle for awhile. As a child growing up in the Virginia countryside, the moonless nights were so dark and the stars were so numerous that they looked like clouds. I remember as a child hoping that I could live long enough to see Halley’s Comet. I did, but what a big disappointment as compared to previous descriptions.

  6. YES, this was the night in 1833 the ” Stars Fell on Alabama ” and I hope you have heard the classic song and the remake by our own Jimmy Buffett. Here are the opening lyrics !
    Moonlight and magnolia, starlight in your hair
    All the world a dream come true
    Did it really happen, was I really there, was I really there with you?
    We lived our little drama, we kissed in a field of white
    And stars fell on Alabama last night
    I can’t forget the glamor, your eyes held a tender light
    And stars fell on Alabama last night …

  7. This explains, then, why on Mon. Nov 7 and Tues Nov 8, while observing the moon before and during the lunar eclipse, I saw two meteorites zipping through the sky … the approach of the Leonids! Light pollution interferes with this event. Go somewhere really dark for the best show.

  8. Go near a cemetery or graveyard! Those are usually the best places to see the sky stars and constellations!!

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