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Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Leonid Meteor Report, Wedensday November 18, 2009

Using a mobile phone to time your meteor watching sessions is not such a good idea. After you have checked the time a small bright square floats in your vision, right where you want to see meteors. Still, using the alarm timer on my phone was quite helpful, if you have a watch, you are constantly checking the blasted thing (ten minutes must have gone by, no! only one minute!) and so potentially missing meteors.

Other hints. Make sure you have your torch covered in red cellophane before you start you observing session, otherwise you are scrabbling around in multiple drawers ruining your night vision trying to locate the spot you put the celeophane from your last observing session (and desperately trying not to wake the household at the same time while you bang your fingers in the drawer). And likewise, make your cup of tea before you start observing, but after you have found the red cellophane (at least that way you keep your night vision by making the tea by red torchlight).

The session started promising, clear skies, cool with no wind. I could see down to magnitude 5.5 and I had a clear horizon and a field of view stretching from the Pleiades to the False Cross. Right off the bat a nice bright meteor shot between Taurus and Orion, probably a sporadic but very nice indeed, then a dim sporadic followed. Things were looking good!

Then there was 30 minutes of nothing. Nothing. Not even a satellite! I normally keep a lookout for ISS passes, iridium flares and normal satellites to liven up meteor observing, but this period was singularly devoid of anything. AND I'd drunk all my tea. Red Mars had risen above the tress and was glowing like an ember, but meteors, none.

Just as I was thinking this was a good time to head for bed, WHOOSH, a bright Leonid shoots up form the horzion, follows shortly by a spectacular bright one that shoots all the way over to the False Cross. Things are looking good! I move the camera to image the area between Procyon and Hydra.

Then another 10 minutes of nothing. The drought is broken by a bright Leonid zooming between Orion and Taurus, where until 10 minutes ago, my camera had been pointing the whole night! Then another two Leonids zoom up from the horizon in quick succession.

To cap it all a brilliant white fireball with a bright train streaks across beyond the False Cross. It leveas a glowing persistant trail. I try and get the camera set up to image the train, as I do, a satellite trundles across the patch of sky where the train is. It's one of the best meteors I've ever seen outside of the 2001 Leonid storm.

But twilight is approaching fast, and now clouds mooches over the sky, although patchy, it's a signal to pack up and go back to bead.

All over, I got seven Leonids in a one hour period, this probably is consistent with ZHR of around 100 (given how low the radiant was to the horizon). At the time of writing, the IMO has posted a rate of 45 meteors/hour, but expect that to increase (UPDATE: as of 9:00 pm, 18-11-09, the IMO reported peak rate was 157 meteors/hour at 22:00 UT, pretty close to the predicted time and numbers; at 3:00-4:00 am AEDST there was a little peak of 59 meteors/hour, consistent with my observations) . Radio Meteor observations have picked up a blip in rates. No news from Asia yet.

I'll take my photos in to be processed today (UPDATE: no, they no longer do processing, it has to be sent out for processing and will be back next week). A nice Leonid picture is here, (UPDATE: sorry it turns out to be a sporadic) and Spaceweather has a gallery of photos, including a persistent train.

Full sky images from Singapore (21 meteors) are here, and full sky images from Colorado are here.


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