Leonids 2002 - The Results

My short trip to Andalusia, Spain lasted from November 16 (morning) till November 19, 2002 (evening) with a primary focus to make visual and photographic observations of the Leonids. The objective of the visual observations was to accurately determine ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) profiles of the Leonids on the night of maximum activity. I did not make upfront arrangements for coordinated simultaneous photographic observations. 

The observing site

I intended to observe from a small hotel, called Cortijo Valverde, situated halfway between the Andalusian villages of Alora and Ville del Abdalajis (near 3604' N, 102' W), about a 1 hour drive from Malaga and the coast line.

On the evening of our first day at Cortijo Valverde (Nov 16/17), the sky was clear, and this allowed me to do some pre-checking on the observing conditions. The area around the swimming pool of Cortijo Valverde really would be an ideal spot to observe the Leonids : no city lights at all, in fact not a single light was visible in the hills surrounding the hotel. In addition, the air was very dry, so despite the strong moonlight, the limiting magnitude was still well above mag 5.

The days before the predicted Leonid maximum, Kathleen and I hiked through some of the most spectacular landscapes of Andalusia. Click here for an overview of our activities and pictures.

The night of November 18/19 - storm night !

On November 18th, the weather during day time was excellent. In fact, the few clouds that were still present during the morning and around noon, started to disappear as the evening approached. So, expectations and hopes were very high. 

I did a final check of the sky around 23h local time, before trying to catch some sleep. At that moment, there were already some thick clouds floating around. I got very worried.

I woke up around 01h30m local time to start preparing the observing session. My intention was to kick off the visual ZHR determination around 2h local time (i.e., about 3 hours before the predicted maximum activity). I went outside to check the sky conditions and was deeply disappointed. Only a small patch of the sky was still without clouds (towards the direction of Leo). 

The picture at left was made around 1h45m local time, on November 19th, 2002. I used an Olympus 3030-Z digital camera. The exposure time was 16 sec. The brightest object on the image is Jupiter. Clouds are already dominating the sky.

A cold front now was quickly approaching and within 10 or 15 minutes, the complete sky got covered. My hopes of observing the Leonids were all gone. I subsequently did regular checks of the sky conditions between 2h and 5h local time, but around 4h30m local time (half an hour before 'the moment supreme') it started to rain intensively. 

It stopped raining in the morning at breakfast time ... I saw about 5 Leonids all together ...

A disappointing and failed expedition from an astronomical point of view. But in terms of hiking and sight seeing, this definitely was a successful and enjoyable trip for Kathleen and myself !   





Copyright © 2002 - Tonny Vanmunster.