Leonids 2002

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The Leonid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left by comet Temple-Tuttle. The 2002 Leonid meteor shower was predicted to peak during the early hours of 19th November. This page details my experiences of that morning.

I observed the 2002 Leonids from Peel Park, Accrington, Lancashire (53 45' 20.2"N 002 21' 10.8"W). On the night of the 18/19th November we were extremely fortunate and had reasonably clear skies all night.

 I was out from 02:00 to 05:30 and observing from about 02:30 to 04:45. I spent the first half hour finding a suitable location screened from the bright moonlight. I found a spot in amongst some pine trees. This gave a reasonable view of the northern sky, but not the radiant. Later, towards the time of the predicted peak, a large bank of cloud blocked 40% of the western sky, including the Moon, and I was able to move to an area with a clear view of the radiant, the zenith and the 60% of the sky not covered by cloud. The sky was hazy throughout the night and the limiting magnitude was between 3.5 and 4.

I didn't attempt to manually record rates, but got the impression that the peak rate occurred much as predicted at 04:00 UT. But this was a certainly a broad peak as the rates were already exceptionally high an hour before this time and remained exceptionally high, well after 04:00. You can see the radio results here.

 Generally, activity seemed to come in bursts, with several meteors in the space of a few seconds followed by a brief lull. However, during the peak you'd seldom have to wait more than a few seconds for a meteor to pass through your field of view. Bright meteors seemed more common early on, many leaving a train visible for several seconds. Those arriving later, at the predicted peak, generally seemed fainter. A higher proportion, perhaps 20%, of the earlier meteors also appeared to be in groups leaving multiple trains.