Nov 18, 1999

Leonids Rain in Spain

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An outburst of over 1500 Leonid meteors per hour dazzled observers in Europe and the Middle East.
Leonids in 1966
November 18, 1999: According to preliminary data reported by the International Meteor Organization and the Leonids Environment Operations Center, there was an intense outburst of Leonid meteors over Europe and the Middle East on Thursday morning, November 18. Maximum activity was recorded around 0200 UT as the Earth passed through the debris stream of comet Tempel-Tuttle.

"We observed many, many, many Leonids falling from the sky," said Casper ter Kuile of the Dutch Meteor Society, who was working with a team of observers located between Valencia and Alicante in Spain. "Our experienced visual observers counted about 30 Leonids per minute!"

Above: Scores of meteors near the bowl of the Little Dipper, in a 10 to 12 minute exposure by A. Scott Murrell during the 1966 Leonid storm. He used a 50-mm f/1.9lens and Tri-X film in a camera tracking the stars at New Mexico State University Observatory. [credits]

The high rate noted by observers in Spain, over 1800 meteors per hour, was substantially greater than the 500 to 1000 per hour that most experts had predicted. The storm was even more intense over parts of the Middle East, where members of the Israeli Astronomical Association recorded 70 meteors per minute for just over a half an hour. Like other global observers, the Israeli team was struck by the abundance of faint meteors and the relative absence of bright fireballs. Preliminary reports by meteor watchers in the Canary Islands and near the Gorges du Verdon in France confirm this general picture of the outburst.

The meteor storm was not seen west of the Atlantic. In North America sky watchers saw relatively few Leonids -- at most 40 to 50 per hour. The majority of these were fast-moving and dim.
meteor data
Radio measurements from Japan and the Czech Republic confirm the results of visual observers indicating a peak between 2:00 and 2:10 UT. This time coincides with the maximum at 2:08 UT predicted by Asher and McNaught. In their model of the Leonid meteoroid stream, the 1999 storm was caused by a dust trail created when the Leonids parent comet, Tempel-Tuttle, passed by the Sun about 100 years ago. The Asher-McNaught model predicts even bigger Leonid storms in 2001 and 2002.

Above: A global team of observers coordinated by the US Air Force and the University of Western Ontario are continuing to monitor Leonid activity for satellite operators and others. Preliminary data from their observing campaign show a sharp peak in meteor activity just after 200 UT on November 18. [more] Web Links


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Leonids Live! -site of the live webcast of the 1999 Leonids

North American Meteor Network - home page

Related Stories:
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meteor flash!
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Author: Dr. Tony Phillips
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