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Every 33 years, comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle returns to the inner solar system and releases material that forms into a new dust trail. These debris, when hit by the Earth, produce the Leonid meteors
In most years, the Earth passes far away from the comet's dust trail, and the number of Leonids seen is low. But, on those rare occasions that the Earth passes through the center of the comet's trail, this results in the most spectacular meteor displays. Almost every 33 years, the Leonids turn into a real meteor storm, producing several thousands of meteors during a couple of hours. Meteor scientists had predicted that around November 18, 2001 another Leonids meteor storm was due.

I traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona to observe this celestial show under the best possible conditions.  And the Leonids for sure produced a spectacular event. Although there was not a 'storm' such as in 1966, with meteors falling down like rain, the shower certainly did rain meteors and fireballs for many hours. The best shower activity I have ever seen in over 25 years of watching the sky.

Leonid fireball over Braeside Observatory, Flagstaff, during the famous 2001 Leonid 'outburst'.  
(c) Tonny Vanmunster.

My interest in meteor observing goes back to the mid 70's, when I was very active in the "Meteors" Working Group of the Belgian astronomical association VVS. In the early 80's, I formed a European Photographic Meteor Network to stimulate simultaneous meteor observations. In the mid 80's, I witnessed the first Perseid meteor 'storm' from atop the platform of famous Jungfraujoch Observatory (Swiss). My interest in meteor astronomy started to fade at the moment I got (deeply) involved in variable star observing.

Leonids 2001 Expedition

bullet Preparations and observational results of our Leonids 2001 Expedition to Flagstaff, AZ   
bulletSelected pictures of the Leonids 2001 expedition 
bulletInterested in our ZHR calculations ? Here's the full table of observations.  

Leonids 2002 Expedition

bulletPreparations and observational results of our Leonids 2002 Expedition to Andalusia, Spain  
bulletSelected pictures of the Leonids 2002 expedition

More to come ?

bulletFuture meteor storms : what to expect ?  



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Copyright 2004 - Tonny Vanmunster. All rights reserved