2002 Leonids

For 2002 model predictions of Leonid activity indicated that there would be two maxima on the 19th November- at around 04:00 UT and 10:35 UT. The first would favour western Europe whilst the second would favour Eastern to Central North America.

Due to local committments I remained in SW Scotland for the night of the 18th - 19th November. Despite unbroken cloud cover during the day of the 18th, it was barely credible to see the cloud slowly clear during the night permitting an almost uninterrupted view of the meteor shower.

Impressions were that the numbers of meteors observed over the UK was not to the storm levels that many had expected, the almost full moon and patchy cloud clearly impacted on the number of faint meteors observed. Skies to the north and east remained reasonably dark with limiting magnitude estimated at around 4.5 (Alcor, 80 UMa, was clearly visible all night).

However, there were many bright (mag 0 and brighter) events. Most meteors left green trains that are characteristic of the high speed Tempel-Tuttle debris impacts on the upper atmosphere. Observing the sky to the north over the time interval 02:00 - 03:00 UT recorded 34 meteors of mag 3 and brighter. Event of the night was the magnificent mag -5+ fireball observed at 02:10UT as it moved relatively slowly over our heads into northern Cassiopeia. The meteor glowed brilliant white with reddish and yellowish tones and left a green train in its wake that remained visible to our eyes for around 45 seconds. Sadly, there were no other events to compare with this!

Observation of the radiant around the time of the predicted maximum showed very brief bursts of activity with several meteors appearing simultaneously, then nothing. The level of activity in the lead up to the maximum seemed higher than afterwards where it seemed that the display had suddenly shut down with, what seemed like minutes passing before the next meteor. Despite the almost full moon, patchy cloud cover and the cold, the display was very entertaining and is the last predicted major Leonid display until the end of the century.

Here are a few of my images taken on the morning of the 19th of November 2002.


2002leonid2vsm.jpg (3769 bytes)

Imaged between 03:51 and 03:55 UT through a 28mm lens at f/1.8. Three Leonids are captured as they streak out to the west (right) of the radiant and another to the upper left. The brightest meteor was observed at 03:52 UT, estimated magnitude was -1. This image was the BAA "Picture of the Week" for the 2/12/02.

2002leonid3 close vsm.jpg (3638 bytes)

A close-up of a five minute exposure commencing at 04:40 UT through a 16mm lens at f/2.8. One bright Leonid is visible at the top of the frame.

2002leonid4vsm.jpg (3365 bytes)

A four minute exposure commencing at 04:46 UT through a 16mm lens at f/2.8. In this close-up view two reddish Leonids are caught streaking away from the radiant. This image was also featured as the BAA "Picture of the Week" for the 2/12/02.

2002leonid5vsm.jpg (3576 bytes)

Ten minute exposure commencing at 05:08 UT through a 16mm lens at f/2.8. A fireball (and part of my car) is captured in the bottom of the frame low on the horizon.

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