Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
Journal 45

The Leonid Meteors - 19/20 November 2002

A full moon, high thin cloud and a bitter SE wind blowing patches of cloud and mist in off the sea made observing conditions so poor that if it had been an ordinary meteor shower we would not have bothered. But this was the last chance for a very long time to see a spectacular show by the Leonids and the predictions were spot-on.

Horst Meyerdierks observed from Earlyburn from 0200 to 0530. His faintest meteors were about +2, most of them were about 0 or 1, a few brighter. Many came in pairs or within a second, some in bursts, but some minutes went by with no meteors. Most of them had luminous trains. Horst counted the meteors in 15-minute periods, rates were fairly low but rose to 30 (in 15 min) for 0345-0400 then 46 for 0400-0415, 29 at 0415-0430 then a plateau of nearly constant activity to 0530. His grand total was 255. See graph for details.

George Grant observing at Colinton about 0500-0600 saw 3 bright meteors close to Leo then in a sustained watch of an hour saw a further 30. He looked out again at 0630 and saw another 2, then a very bright Leonid passed very close to Venus which had just risen over the Pentlands.

Ken Thomas at Earlyburn counted the Leonids in 6 10-minute periods and got a peak activity of 50 in the 0407-0417 slot, giving him a total of 197.

Des Loughney observing from Kingsknowe saw 26 meteors in the hour from 0300 to 0400 in a hazy 40% visible sky with 2 bright (= Jupiter) events at just after 0300 and 0320.

Dave Gavine observing from Joppa from 0310 to 0500 in a sky with limiting magnitude 2.5 improving to 4.0 but at the same time the cloud increased from 3/8 to 5/8. Meteors were counted in 5-minute intervals, showing peaks at 0410-0415 and 0425-30. Total score 102. A few were as bright as Jupiter, nearly all had trains.

Neil Grubb observing from Cameron Toll from 0350 to 0500 saw about 100 meteors in limiting magnitude 3.5, with a peak rate of 18 in the 5-minute slot 0420-0425. He saw a 4 fireball in Ursa Major at about 0440, also seen by Dave.

Russell Eberst was observing satellites from East of Arthur Seat between 0136 and 0630. Activity picked up betweek 0400 and 0405. At the peak he estimated about 400 per hour. He saw over 100.

Alan Pickup observing from Fairmilehead saw 74 meteors in a sky with 3/8 cloud and increasing, LM average 3.5, between 0248 and 0424, mostly mag +1 and +2 but with one at mag -4 and a mag 0 point meteor which flared out of the radiant. Counting Leonids in 10-minute intervals he estimated the peak to occur around 0410.

Although no more spectacular rates are forecast for the Leonids in the near future these meteors are around every November in smaller numbers and it is advisable to keep observing them to enable astronomers to model the shower and its orbit with greater accuracy.

Look out for the Quadrantids, sometimes unreliable but often a strong shower, peaks at about 2200 on the night of Jan 3, with the Moon well out of the way.

Please send any meteor observations you may have to Lorna McCalman or Dave Gavine who will then send them to Brian Kelly, the BAA Meteor Section Northern Co-ordinator, for analysis. And Des : welcome to the BAA, our latest Member.

Dave Gavine

graph of horst's leonid observations

Diagram of Leonid meteors by Horst Meyerdierks