Edition 15 of the Astronomy On-line Newspaper

Report about the Leonids - How Did They Perform?

Radio and visual observations Europe-wide confirm that there was no meteor storm - as optimistically expected by many.

The Leonids were 40 percent lower in the radio counts as compared to last year. Instead of one sharp maximum, some data indicate that there may have been 2 wider peaks.

However - as reported here earlier - and as written by observers in the Sky & Telescope electronic bulletin -an unusually high portion of these meteors were very bright. Below is a student picture - taken at 00:15 UT on November 17 by the Astronomy On-Line group Southeast Lollandia Stargazers:

Leonid bolide over Denmark. Click to obtain larger version (GIF, 63k).

To the lower right you see a bright meteor entering the Earth atmosphere with nearly 250 000 km pr hour.

It moves rapidly towards the upper left - and finally explodes, probably 40 km above the ground - at the edge of this photo or just beyond.

The length of this trail is probably 50 km or even more !

Radiomeasurements registered this fireball too - the smoke trail kept on reflecting radiowaves for nearly half a minute !

The theoretical maximum will appear around 1999 - but here moonlight may give us problems.

However - observers estimate that most meteors were even above + 1 in magnitude - so moonlight may not be a problem at all.

Right now at the end of the EU Science Week - however - the intensity is rapidly decreasing - radiomeasurements show only a weak signal about 30 percent above usual background noise.

Congratulations to the active (but freezing) group of Nysted - Denmark who got this very fine photo!

Mogens Winther
Soenderborg Amtsgymnasium (Denmark)

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Last update: Nov 22, 1996