November 17th and 18th, 2000
Leonid Storm 1999 report:
From Northern California...
AANC President, Jane Houston Jones' Leonid Adventure ...
Science@NASA presents The Leonids, Live:
Leonid Daily News, from the NASA ARC Leonid MAC Mission
Leonids Made Easy, from the San Jose Astronomical Association's
Club newsletter, The Ephemeris http://ephemeris.sjaa.net/0011/
Where to Observe the Leonids:
The California Meteor Society will be conducting organized Leonid observing at two south bay sites. Volunteers are welcome, but plan to arrive before 9:00PM. There will be will be experienced Meteor observers at both sites. Contact your local astronomy club or science center for other plans and locations.
- Fremont Peak State Park:
One group will be operating camera equipment, and
conducting visual meteor counts at the Fremont Peak Observatory
- United Technologies Corporation in San Jose
Another group will be operating camera equipment,
and conducting visual meteor counts at United Technologies Corporation in San Jose
on both November 16 and 17 from 8:00pm until early morning.
Contact Jane@whiteoaks.com for directions and instructions.
The California Meteor Society's observing campaign will be
Thursday night 8:00PM/ Friday morning TBD 11/16 - 11/17 and
Friday night 8:00PM/ Saturday morning TBD 11/17 - 11/18
Fremont Peak and Henry Coe State Parks are good dark sites for the public to
observe meteors. For directions, please see http://www.sjaa.net/directions.html
on the San Jose Astronomical Associations's website.
Central Valley: Davis/Fairfield
EXPLORIT! Astronomy Club
Come to our Leonid meteor shower party on Friday November 17 at 8:30 at
Fairfield School. Amateurs are hoping this year that the Leonid Meteor
Shower will put on a grand show! Fortunately, the Moon will not rise
until around 11:00 p.m. and will be in its "last quarter" phase, so we
should have good viewing until then. Meteor storm or no, we will have some
good views of Jupiter and Saturn as well as other celestial delights of the
The party will be at Fairfield Elementary School at the intersection of
Road 32 and Road 96. Take Russell Blvd. (Road 32) west 4 miles beyond the
Highway 113 overpass until you come to Road 96. Watch for the "school
crossing" sign; the school is on the right side corner. There is a big
grassy area for chairs and blankets and an area of asphalt for telescopes,
More info at our club site:
Here's hoping we all have clear skies!
Meteor Storm History....
The following is from:
The Geography Of The Heavens and Class-Book Of Astronomy,
by Elijah H. Burritt, A.M.,
greatly enlarged, revised and illustrated, by H. Mattison, A.M.,
New York, published by Mason Brothers, 1863
"The number of shooting stars observed in a single
night, though variable, is commonly very small. There are however,
several instances on record of them falling in "showers" - when every
star in the firmament seems loosened from its sphere, and moving in
lawless flight from one end of the heavens to the other.
"As early as 472, in the month of November, a phenomenon of this
kind took place near Constantinople. As Theophanes relates, "the sky
appeared to be on fire," with the coruscations of the flying meteors.
"A shower of stars exactly similar took place in Canada, between the
third and the fourth of July, 1814, and another in Montreal, in
November, 1819. In all of these cases, a residuum, or black dust , was
deposited upon the surface of the waters, and upon the roofs of
buildings, and other objects. In the year 1810, "inflamed substances",
it is said, fell into, and around lake Van, in Armenia, which stained
the water of a blood color, and cleft the earth in various places. On
the 5th of September, 1819, a like phenomenon was seen if Moravia.
History furnishes many more instances of meteoric showers, depositing a
red dust in some places, so plentiful as to admit of chemical analysis.
"The commisioner of our government who was sent out to fix the boundary
between the Spanish possessions in North America and the United States,
witnessed a very extrodinary flight of shooting stars, which filled the
atmosphere from Cape Florida to the West India Islands. This grand
phenomenon took place the 12th of November, 1799, and is thus
described: - 'I was called up,' says Mr. Ellicott, 'about 3 o'clock in
the morning, to see the shooting stars, as they are called. The
phenomenon was grand and awful. The whole heavens appeared as if
illuminated with skyrockets, which disappeared only by the light of the
sun, after daybreak. The meteors, which at any one instant of time
appeared as numerous as the stars, flew in all possible directions
except from the earth, toward which they all inclined, more or less, and
some of them descended perpendicularly over the vessel we were in, so
that I was in constant expectation of their falling on us.'
"Mr. Ellicott further states that his thermometer, which had been at
80° F for the first 4 days preceding, fell to 56° about 4 o'clock AM,
and that nearly at the same time, the wind changed from the south to the
northwest, from wence it blew with great violence for 3 days without
"The celebrated Humbolt...[snip]...speaks of the
phenomenon:-'Toward the morning of the 13th of November, 1799, we
witnessed a most extraordinary scene of shooting meteors. Thousands of
bolides, and falling stars succeeded each other during 4 hours. Their
directionwas very regular from north to south. From the beginning of the
phenomenon there was not a space in the firmament, equal in extent to 3
diameters of the moon, which was not filled every instant with bolides
or falling stars. All the meteors left luminous traces, or
phosphorescent bands behind them, which lasted 7 or 8 seconds."
[snip] "But the most sublime phenomenon of shooting stars, of which the
world has furnished any record, was witnessed throughout the United
States on the morning of the 13th of November, 1833. The entire extent
of this astonishing exhibit has not been precisely asertained, but it
covered no inconsiderable portion of the earth's surface. It has been
traced from longitude 61°, in the Atlantic Ocean, to longitude 100° in
Central Mexico, and from the North American lakes to the West Indies. It
was not seen, however, anywhere in Europe, nor in South America, nor in
any part of the Pacific Ocean yet heard from."
Information collector: Jane Houston Jones,
California Meteor Society and San Jose Astronomical Association
The Leonids, Coming This Weekend to Skies Near You
By Mark Wheeler
Special to SPACE.com
posted: 07:00 am ET
14 November 2000
The Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend. Should you be afraid?
The great meteor storm of 1833 is said to have kick-started the modern study of meteors - and scared the bejesus out of the uninformed. Small wonder: at the storm's peak, between 2 a.m. and dawn on November 12 and 13, roughly 100,000 meteors per hour scorched the night sky.
"Imagine a constant succession of fireballs, resembling rockets, radiating in all directions from a point in the heavens," wrote Denison Olmsted, of Yale College. The display goaded scientists into researching past storms and hypothesizing on future ones. (It may also have been responsible for a wave of religious revivals, fomented by viewers convinced they had experienced the precursor to Armageddon.)
The storm was an intense instance of the annual Leonid meteor shower, which arrives every November and is named after the constellation Leo, the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate. The meteors themselves are bits and pieces shed by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, pulled along in the comet's wake as it orbits the sun.
The peak day this November is the 18th, at 2:51 a.m., Eastern Standard Time (07:51 GMT). But don't expect a storm. At best, it will be a drizzle. Regrettably, says astronomer John Mosley of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, this year's shower will be "nothing to plan a vacation around," although it should still be worth the loss of a night's sleep.
Stay tuned, though, says Mosley. Next year should be great.
He says that with some confidence. In the past, predictions of the strength and timing of a given year's Leonids would often vary widely. But thanks to some very neat work by a couple of astronomers just a year ago, we now know what's coming down the celestial pike with some precision. Rob McNaught, of the Australian National University, and David Asher, of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, examined the motions of all the Tempel-Tuttle debris streams that had formed over the past millennium. They worked out where these streams of particles are now located by calculating the gravitational pull of the planets on the dust orbiting through the centuries. Then they calculated the time when Earth will be closest to the center of each stream.
"Their breakthrough," Mosley explains, "was to realize that each time the comet passed, it shed a stream that was affected differently because the planets were in different positions; prior to this, people had considered the comet to shed the same stream each time and add to it.
"So, each time the Earth comes around the Sun, we travel through different streams; it's a whole graded set of streams out there." The number of meteors we see depends on the depth and density of the individual streams, which over time are stretched and thinned by gravity.
Last year - a very good one - Earth passed through debris that had sloughed off the comet three revolutions ago, back in 1899. The storm peaked at about 5,000 meteors per hour. This year's itinerary isn't so favorable: we will be passing near, but not through, two separate streams - one formed in 1733, the other in 1865. Though astronomers are leaving themselves wiggle room on this one, peak meteor rates could be around 100 an hour. To make matters worse, there's a waning Moon sitting close to Leo, obscuring the view.
But wait 'till next year! In 2001 the Moon will be absent, and Earth will pass through three streams, one of which - from 1767 - will be visible from North America, with a peak at 5:01 a.m. EST (10:01 GMT), on November 18. McNaught and Asher estimate that activity will be in the vicinity of 1,500 meteors per hour.
Don't give up on Y2000, though. Even a paltry 100 hits an hour gives you a meteor every 35 seconds or so. Get a lawn chair and a sleeping bag, and get away from city lights. Don't bring a telescope or binoculars; you want to take in as wide a view as possible. You might be surprised at what you see, and you'll have to time to contemplate what was happening on Earth when those fiery particles first left their mother ship.
Page web-posted by Alan Gould--Lawrence Hall of Science