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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.
v) For recording meteors, what should we record?

For information on what to record for visual observing, check out our NAMN Observing Guide at: http://www.namnmeteors.org/guide.html

This gives the basic info on what visual data we usually record for each meteor - time of occurrence, brightness (magnitude), shower it belonged to, speed of meteor, how long the trail lasted if it had one, and any color or unusual characteristics.

While rates are low, before and after the peaks on November 18/19, and on the nights leading up to and after November 18/19, an observer can either use a tape recorder or a paper roll or recording sheets to write their meteor data on. Recording sheets can be printed off from http://www.namnmeteors.org/namn_form.html

When the Leonid rates start to really pick up, all of this info will not be possible to record on tape, or on a written paper roll, for each meteor. Most of us will then revert to just times and magnitudes of Leonids - and not record meteors from minor showers. If rates get even higher, then an observer will have to devise their own recording strategy. Some observers in the past have resorted to just calling 'beep' onto their tape under these sorts of conditions. Make sure you continue to put time markers on your tape though - preferably every minute in periods of enhanced activity. A talking watch or clock (available at supplies for the blind) makes this much easier.

If the rates get so high that you cannot count, be prepared to switch to your camera to record them! For photographic observations, record the start

and stop times for each exposure, and details on film, camera lens and f/stop used. Basically, fast film and fast lenses are good, but exposures may have to be shortened to a handful of minutes to counteract the full moon sky conditions. For beginners, or those trying astrophotography for the very first time, read the excellent articles by Dennis di Cicco at http://skyandtelescope.com/howto/imaging/article_159_1.asp and by Pierre Martin at http://www.oaog.ca/Meteors/IntroPhoto.htm Instructions for serious meteor photographers can be found on the IMO website at http://www.imo.net/photo/index.html

For video observations, again, record the start and stop times for your exposures, and details on your video camera settings. Information on special meteor video techniques can be found on the IMO website at http://www.imo.net/video/index.html A suggestion was posted to our MeteorObs email list on October 14th by Rob McNaught: "It would be nice to have some standardization in video observations to help analyze activity. Pointing the camera at the celestial pole (Polaris for northern observers) will give a constant radiant elongation and Moon elongation throughout the night and for most observers, a camera elevation of ~45 +/- 10 deg... arbitrarily placing cameras over the sky must complicate analysis."

For those technical (perhaps deep sky) observers wanting to use their CCD equipment to capture meteor activity, check out the CCD's and Astrophotography page at http://pages.sprint.ca/todd/files/ccd.html for links which may prove useful. You will find helpful information in the IMO links as well at http://www.imo.net/video/index.html

(However - and this is important - never be intimidated by instructions! If you do not have the equipment recommended by the experts for photography or video work - try anyway! You don't always have to use the 'recommended' types of film. You don't always have to have the 'recommended' camera. You may be into photography for the joy of photography. Experiment and enjoy yourself while watching your Leonids!)

In all cases, and especially if you travel, get a reading on your location's latitude and longitude. Note your weather conditions. Note what percentage of your sky is obscured by buildings or trees. Note your limiting magnitude - how faint is the faintest star you can see? Check out the charts available for judging limiting magnitude at http://www.imo.net/visual/major01.html#table2 and print yourself off a set if you are serious about your observations.

There is a meteor 'storm' simulation on the website of the IMO, the International Meteor Organization. It was written by Sirko Molau, the IMO Video Commission Director. Check it out at http://www.imo.net/ under Software. It is called MetSim. It is good practice for estimating just how well you would be able to judge really high meteor rates!

In all cases, record all the data you can. We need as much coverage around the globe as we can get. If you have questions, drop an email to our NAMN Coordinator at meteors@comcast.net

After the peak is all over, and you are doing up your visual report, an email template to use in typing out your observations is available at http://www.namnmeteors.org/appendixC.html

Then email off your report to our NAMN Coordinator at meteors@comcast.net. Photographic and video reports can be sent to NAMN, and we will also forward them on to the International Meteor Organization for you.

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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