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Meteor Shower

How many meteors will we really see, and when?
Where do we have to go to see the Leonids?
What equipment do we need for observing?
For recording meteors, what should we record?
Where can we get more specialized information?
Leonids 2001 - November 17, 2001
Astro Geek's Leonids 2001 Report by Stephen LaFlamme
Leonids 2000
Leonids 1998 - Report by Brenda Culbertson.
iv) What equipment do we need for observing?

This is an open question, and depends to a large degree on the type of observing you wish to do.

A basic checklist for casual sky watchers would include the following:

  • campcot or reclining lawnchair
  • foam mat to put on chair
  • sleeping bag to put on mat
  • a spare blanket
  • a pillow (yes, use a pillow, it helps keep you comfortable!)
  • waterproof tarp to put over sleeping bag to keep off dew and frost
  • star charts, printable from our NAMN site at: http://www.namnmeteors.org/charts.html
  • a red flashlight to read your charts
  • paper, pencils and clipboard to record any notes you take
  • some hand warmers, either the lightable stick kind (take matches or lighter), or the disposable pouch kind
  • thermos of coffee, and a snack (but be cautious if animals around)
  • warm coat, hat, mittens, scarf to keep nose and neck warm
  • if down south - appropriate attire and insect repellant
  • small pair of binoculars to watch meteor trains with
  • last, but very important - a dark colored umbrella to help block the full moon from your view! (an appropriately placed mountain or tree would suffice as well)

If you are actually going to record the meteors you see, then add the following: - (preferably) a pocket tape recorder, with spare tapes and batteries

  • extra batteries (they die easily in the cold)
  • recording sheets for your meteors, printable from: http://www.namnmeteors.org/namn_form.html
  • extra paper in case of a recording emergency!
  • star charts showing limiting magnitude areas, printable from: http://www.imo.net/visual/major01.html#table2
  • a watch or clock set to accurate time (a talking watch or clock is preferable so that you do not need to take your eyes off the sky to check the time)
  • extra warm clothes - extra layers, extra mittens
  • a couple more blankets (no kidding!)

If you want to photograph some Leonids, then add:

  • a camera that has a time exposure setting (a simple digital camera or instacam won't work for this)
  • a normal lens, or a wide angle lens (fast f/ratio preferable)
  • cable release - fast film - either print or slide, either color or black and white
  • extra film - tripod - lens hood
  • heat source to keep lens dry (disposable hand warmer pouch can be used with elastic)
  • if not a manual camera, lots of extra batteries for the cold

If you want to try videotaping some Leonids, add: - video camera - extra video tapes - extra battery packs - and still more battery packs!

If you are traveling to see the Leonids, do and pack the following:

  • put your snow tires on before the trip
  • add weight to your trunk if rear wheel drive
  • get a tuneup for your car - identification if crossing borders
  • customs slips for all your cameras, lens, tripods, etc.
  • a safety flashlight with fresh batteries
  • jumper cables - a fire extinguisher
  • emergency blankets and full first aid kit
  • spare oil, antifreeze, and premixed radiator fluid
  • a shovel and a bag of sand or kitty litter (it's winter!)
  • cell phone if possible - phone numbers of all your contacts!!
  • road maps of the provinces/states you will visit

Links to Leonids Web Sites

Leonid Peak Online Estimator: If you want to find out the estimated peak times for where you live, go to this site, and check out your location. At the bottom of the screen is a flux calculator. Pick the city closest to you and launch the calculator. It should give you a pretty good idea what the times will be for your area.

Thanks to Paul Greenhalgh of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, moderator of the Astronomy Clubs Around the World eGroup, for providing this information.

Ed Flaspoehler, Vice President
American Association of Amateur Astronomers

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