Leonid Meteor STORM >2,000/hr (Nov. 17-18,2001)

That evening the Moonset between Ft. Collins & Loveland over the Northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.


                   The 4x6 print taken from 3:51-4:04am, in Leo, shows about                                                        Region of this meteor is Orion, Hyades & Mars,
                         18 meteors.  The 'glow' at the lower right is the Zodical Light"                                             Pleiades, Taurus. Denver glow and scope at the  bottom.

                                                                                            and of course the 'burst' near the bottom. Click for Radiant!!

                        From Pawnee Prairie Grasslands, CO Portra 800,f/3.5/13mins./pushed 1 stop
                These were processed by the best photographic developers in Ft. Collins, CO  Hardy's Photo Imaging

Below are the email reflections of this event from folks present at the Cactus Flats Star Party Site (about 60-70 were present)
Dan Lazslo's FoxPark report (WOW)
Tue, 20 Nov 2001 10:26:21 EST
Hi all,

The childhood trauma of missing the 1966 Leonid storm left me with a little paranoia, would I ever
get to see anything remotely like it?  I fidgeted all weekend, watching the clear sky Friday night,
doubting it could last.  I was pleased to see 4 Leonids on Saturday AM from the backyard, not
skunked at least.  Fog rolled in at 5 AM, a worry.

Saturday was devoted to watching the weather satellite photos of encroaching clouds from the West.
A stripe marched across Utah and posed a major dilemma:  head to Pawnee and risk a rendezvous
with the cloud bank, or head West?
I truly regret not being able to be two places at once.  The carnival at Pawnee sounds incredible.
OTOH, I cast my lot with Wyoming, and Foxpark.

The drive up started a little after midnight, and North of Laporte there was a hint that something
incredible was underway. Every few minutes, a meteor would streak long and low, skimming the northern
horizon.  Within the hour, it was possible to see a meteor out any window of the car within a few
minutes of looking.  The urge to peek was especially tough on the leg from Laramie to Foxpark, with
Orion and Sirius glistening.

After freezing at Pawnee recently, the prospect of hypothermia at 9000+ feet added a little suspense.
But, the temp in Laramie was over 30 degrees, a pretty good omen.  Would there be snowdrifts?
Screaming wind?

Well, how about 0 out of three.  A chill was there at about 30 degrees, but the air was absolutely
calm.  A little snow in shady spots.  I think I've felt colder there in August.

A moose greeted us as we passed the campground, another good omen.

Then we finally pulled into the meadow.  What followed was hours of disbelief, interrupted briefly by
the annoyance of a slipping telescope drive.  Not going to be an easy night for photos.  While looking
down to set up, the ground lit up by a shadow-caster.  Typical for me.  But as the morning wore on . . ..

The rain of meteors was impossible to miss.  Look anywhere and see meteors.  I felt like every meteor
I've ever seen in my life was played back within a couple hours.  Swift streaks.  Short trails.  Bolides.
Persistent trains.  Simultaneous pairs, successive trios . . .  With a backdrop of the Winter Milky Way
constellations retreating.  Just overwhelming.  A most impressive aspect of the shower was the number
of meteors near the horizon.  Look toward the radiant and imagine a celestial flower painted.  Look
Northwest or Southwest, and see trains angling down.  So cool to look West and see meteors retreating,
one after another.

The air was transparent until about 4 to 4:30, and clouds gradually took over from there.  My photo
efforts were limited by a hand-cranked mount.  The images are pale reflection of the event.

Did I see hordes of faint meteors from Foxpark?  No, I saw a lot more bright meteors than I'd dreamed.
I think conditions there favored spotting the low trails, and the sky made the zodiacal light and band
really prominent.  My camera travails kept me from counting in a useful way, but my 14 and 10 year old
consultants came up with numbers that project to about 2000/hour, counting for a few 5 minute periods
between 230 and 4 AM MST.

We are so fortunate to get a look at this.  Thanks to all for your reports, and wish you all had made
it to Foxpark.              It was intense.
Subject: [FRAC] Stereo from N Fort Collins
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 23:45:14 -0700
From Jan Kok:
Dave Chamness took photos from his house, about a mile north of 287 and Shields, and I took photos
from a position about two miles north of there, next to a lake.  Around midnight there were clouds
overhead and to the west in Fort Collins, but by 1AM or so they had disappeared, and the sky was
clear until 4:30 or so when it got a bit hazy to the south.  At about 5AM there was dew all over
everything, including the camera lens.  I cleared it off with hot air from my car heater, but then
some hunters came by and wanted to get past my car, so I called it a night.  The site seemed
reasonably dark, but the slides came out noticably lighter than similar slides taken at Stove Prarie
a couple years ago.  I saw maybe 1 meteor per second occasionally, but I get the impression the
people at Pawnee saw a lot more.  The Fort Collins Nebula was very obvious to the south.

Dave and I photographed stereo pairs from 2:05 to about 4:40.  I've got my photos back, and they
came out pretty well. I've got about 37 meteor trails scattered over 35 slides, 4 on one slide.
The most interesting one was taken at 3:35-3:40 just west of Leo, a bright one which has a wisp
of "smoke" trailing off to one side from the middle, brightest part of the trail.  The following slide
shows a two-tailed brown smudge of smoke - ah, I think I understand it now, the meteor came down
through the atmosphere, and probably encountered winds going different directions at different altitudes.
The smudge is visible in the slides for 30 minutes.  (But why would the smudge be visible for so long?
Does that indicate a large meteor that disintegrated into a lot of dust, and the dust was illuminated by
lights from the ground?  Surely the dust couldn't stay incandescent that long, could it?)

Definitely a satisfying experience!  Now to see how the stereo views come out...
                                                                             - Jan
Here are some of the first postings at noon Sunday Nov 18, 2001

From David Dunn
Leonids 2001,

This past year has provided a lifetime of great observing memories and last night may have made
it the best ever! Starting out the weekend  Fri. night provided another evening of the very good
transparency we have been experiencing lately. Deep sky objects were nice and contrasty with
the seeing better than the previous weekend (though still about 5/10). Our hope to catch some
early Leonids were thwarted by a thick fog bank that moved in right at midnite. Saturday afternoon
it was obvious that the "flats" would play host to a much larger crowd, by twilight there were more
vehicles than I had ever see in the field and folks would continue to arrive all night. Early evening
had the atmosphere of a large star party with folks mingling around the field sharing telescope views
and stories. You could hear the excitement in peoples voices as they discussed the impending meteor
shower. As the night progressed the clouds over the front range began to slowly move over us and
covered the sky with a thin layer that you could still see bright stars thru.
   Nearing midnight several of us decided to cover our scopes in order to appease the Gods and
hopefully clear away the clouds that were threatening to put a damper on our viewing. Right on cue
we started to see Leonids, one of the first ones I saw started SE about 30 deg. alt. and actually
skipped 3 times thru the atmosphere as it traveled about 120 deg. across the sky! The clouds were
surely hiding some meteors from view but there were still enough bright ones to keep everyone
By 2:30 a.m. the sky had opened up considerably and things were starting to really get going. The
occasional fireball would light up the field to the cheers of all in attendance, usually leaving a "smoke"
trail that could be seen for up to several minutes. By the time of the predicted peak at 3:00 a.m.
we were in a full storm, some were shouting out counts of up to 50 meteors per MINUTE! Every
direction you looked there were meteors, sometimes 2 or 3 at the same time, sometimes more. It
was without a doubt the most fantastic show I have ever seen. I had heard predictions of the peak
lasting from 10 to 30 minutes, thankfully they were not even close. Meteors fell at a high rate for
over an hour, I did not notice any fall off until well after 4:00 a.m. Even then their seemed to be
more fireballs. By this time the Zodiacal Light was brightening the eastern horizon, funny because
this usually brings nice reactions but it seemed to be an afterthought to most due to the "other"
activity going on :-). Fighting exhaustion and cold (the wind had come up considerably)
I hit the sack with visions of meteors still falling, thru my truck's windows. Just a fantastic night
that surely will be talked about at future star parties for a long, long time to come.
                                               A very tired and humble,
                  Jim's excellent images on this event including more amatuer astronomers comments.
From Jim Sapp..Longmont
Hi Folks:
     I'll grogilly (is that a word?) give a quick rundown of last night's Leonids since no one else has
popped on yet, for the benefit of those that are interested (and by the 23 message waiting in this
in-box, there seems to be some interest!). In a word: SPECTACULAR!!!!
     That had to be an all-time record attendance at Cactus Flats too. I heard someone say they
stopped counting after thirty-some-odd cars had shown up. There were still cars coming and going up
CR65 at 4 a.m., much to the consternation of all the dark-adapted and film-exposing folks there.
A calm sunset turned into a fairly chilly evening (about like Foxpark in the summer) and there were a
lot of good views of planets and deep sky stuff to be had since there was a tremendous number of
good sized scopes in attendance.
Toward the later hours of the evening patchy clouds rolled in, then dissipated shortly before another
wave obscurred most of the sky for a while. Around 11:30 or so most folks had covered their scopes
and taken to their lawn chairs to keep an eye on the intermittent but fairly slow and bright Taurid
meteors that were still putting on their show. Around 12-ish the advanced scouts from the Leonids
began arriving, the first or second of which gave us a great preview of what was to come as it's
bright green demise came screaming (figuratively) out the east and skipped three or four times off
the atmosphere leaving a long, punctuated yellow train. It was followed by several more bright meteors
visible through the murky sky, that increased in number fairly steadily through the next two hours as
the sky cleared to a wonderful transparency over most of its dome by 2 a.m.
    From roughly 2 a.m. through the remainder of the night, it would have been utterly impossible to
count the meteors. In any given 10-second period over the next two and a half hours, there may have
been one or two individual seconds that no meteors were seen by any single observer, but the remaining
eight seconds each contained as many as six or eight meteors! It was very common (every minute) to see
three or four good bright ones arrive at once, or in split-second succession. If on the average we were
EACH seeing even one meteor per second (but actually much more), that would work out to 3,600 per
hour per observer, which when corrected to ZHR would be a much larger number. I'm very sure there
were periods when the rate easily exceeded 10,000 and possibly even more. No part of the sky was
favored, as they were visible at any given moment no matter what direction you were facing. Incredible!
From time to time a bright yellow Taurid would "swim upstream" or cut across the path of the much-faster
Leonids, which enhanced the show as well.
     All of us readily agreed that we had never seen anything that came anywhere near the display they
put on! This was DEFINATELY not one to miss. Possibly a once in a lifetime kind of thing. I'll remember
it the rest of my life for sure, and would love a repeat performance! Never seen anything like it. On any
given night out under the sky we usually think it was a pretty good meteor night if we see three or four
bright ones, but last night it was impossible to miss three or four good bright ones in a single minute -
not to mention the multitudes of little streakers, and the occaisonal VERY bright one.
     Some of the really bright ones lit up the ground and were seen reflected off of cars and telecope
tubes. They were usually a bluish-green and left blue-green trails that would glow in the sky for several
minutes as the upper atmospheric winds would twist them into snake-like, writhing forms. One that sticks
in my mind came straight down from the radiant with two blue explossions followed by a final yellow burst.
That was as most of the remaining die-hards were crawling into the sack about 4:30 a.m., but several
of us whooped for it! The show was still going strong, but a VERY chilly north wind was too, and we had
all been out under the late autumn sky for a good ten hours by then. The cold had taken its toll.
    The wind became fairly ferocious by 7 or 8 a.m. and everyone was pretty quick to get their scopes
torn down and hit the road.
     I'm sure there are more descriptions of the event that will be hitting the list in the hours to come,
it was pretty indescibable but something you can't not talk about!
     I sure hope some of my pictures come out. I hope the 200ASA film I was using at f/2 could do the
trick. I know it couldn't have caught the majority of the meteors since they were pretty dim and fast,
but I sure hope I caught a good batch of the bright ones! At any rate, I'll have some nice winter
constellation pics at the least. I hope you other shutter bugs make out too!

- Jim Sapp
Here's a late entry from Terry Moore:  "I remember that one large fireball.  And we got it all
on one camera and part of it on the other.  Ray Warren can fill in the details, he worked
one of the cameras while I worked the radio.  It was cold that night!   Even just four miles
apart, you can see the parallax.  I have another full set here at home.  None are as spectacular
as the big fireball though and his  page, with images of the exploding bolide .

From: Kimon Berlin
Hi all,

I see that the highlights from last night have already been posted... we had a FANTASTIC time;
I can understand why people would want to travel to see meteor storms just like eclipses.

This definitely qualified as a storm by my criterion ("too many to count"). After a while, I was
overwhelmed during one-minute counts (>100 meteors); I did a few 5-second and one-second counts,
and I would guess the peak rate at 10,000-15,000 per hour. Even when you were looking at the
persistent trail from a particularly bright meteor, you could see dozens of small ones zipping by.

The peak lasted much longer than estimates; I left at 5, and I must have seen another 50 through
the windshield, falling in the west!
I think I'll follow Tom T's advice and put my 10,000+ unspent wishes on Ebay.
 I thought maybe we were at a summer star meet with the crowds that showed up at Cactus Flats.
Biggest crowd of people {60 or so I would guess}Cactus flats has ever seen, for any event in the past
15 years we have been using the site. The Meteor storm was Super spectacular, we were counting up
to 10 sometimes in one or two seconds, so 3,000 per hour would be low estimate, more like Jim said,
10,000 is truly realistic. Early one that skipped thru sky was awesome start for even better fireballs
to come. Some were so bright you could see the flash and have time to turn around ,and still be seeing it,
with one that took 5 minutes at least for trail on it to disappear into the dark night sky. We were like
the 4th of July crowds watching the great fireworks show, only way better than any fireworks show.
The best meteor show I have ever seen, we will be talking about this one for awhile.
  We had land owner Ralling Ball show up with his Wife and Son and his wife and their kids for Awesome
showing of Saturn, Jupiter, Orion and more on my 30 scope earlier in the evening.  I was very glad they
to came on out on this event, because it does not get any better than  last night's special evening, One
I will always remember. trying to get back to normal after this weekend will take sometime...............
Well still in the upper atmosphere from the great views of the meteor storm this past weekend. I can
not remember a better night line up.Our prayers for clear skies worked out well as the sea of clouds
parted for our viewing pleasure Around mid night the clouds started to roll in so we covered up the scopes
to get ready for the meteor storm and the clouds did part for us before the big event of the night. The
cold front moved in about 6 am when the cold winds from the north west started to howl. We started at
6:pm saturday night and by seven we had already done 10 objects, by midnight we had two summer nights
worth of views in, and still had 4 or 5 hours more of constant meteor barrage to watch.
  We  were all looking in different directions  and calling out where and how many. We were hitting at least
8 to 10 per second at times. I would be yelling out four ,five or six and others would be calling out theirs
too.Like kimon Berlin said it was futile to even keep trying to count the numbers .Longest astronomy night
of viewing ever for me, almost 11 hours straight thru the night into the pre dawn glow. We definitely
noticed the Zodiacal light was ban that stretched high up in the night sky, pretty strange looking, we did
comment it several times from several different people in the crowds. We usually do not make it till those
early morning hours ,so this was kind of a marathon run thru the cold night on the high plains,  Very Cosmic.
                                                                                                    --- Gary Garzone

Even from less-than-perfect skies, the show was the best meteor shower I've seen in my 35 years of
observing (which began the month AFTER the great Leonid Shower of 1966!).

Thin clouds abounded when I stopped working on camera and trip-to-Pawnee plans at about 11pm. Decided
to pack it in and do a re-check around the predicted max (3am). Over slept (rats!), but did wake up at
4am (whew & yay!) and popped out for a peak. Was greeted/treated by a nice assortment of -3 to 1st
magnitude meteors in only a few seconds. After a quick detour back into the house to roust the other
sleeping inhabitants, all went back out for another look. My backyard conditions were OK (for a "city site")
with all stars in Little Dipper plainly visible (for a limiting magnitude of around 5.5). Concentrated on the
overhead and northern half ("anti-Denver") portion of the sky. With approaching dawn (and LOTS of meteors),
elected to NOT do an hourly count. Instead, counted meteors in 10 second chunks for the next hour.
Quickie summary: ALWAYS had at least one meteor every 10 seconds with a "peak" of  8. Meteors were
coming on average of once every 4-5 seconds for an "official" (non ZHR adjusted) rate of  720-900/hour.
Saw at least three fireballs that cast perceptible shadow. One VERY nice fireball about 4:40am between
the "Sickle" of Leo and Regulus (i.e., near the radiant). Several noteworthy items about this fireball:

1. VERY bright (much brighter than Venus at greatest brilliancy, guestimate -6),

2. much slower and shorter than most of the other Leonids (whoa!, of course, as it was VERY foreshortened
   since it was an "incoming" meteor... DUCK!), and

3. very persistent train. It left a bright patch ("Scutum Cloud-ish") that slowly faded to Beehive/Double
   Cluster-ish and finally faded to M31-ish after about three minutes.

Rate seemed to fall off by 5:00am and twilight started to "close the curtain" by 5:30am. *SIGH*, a nice
display and though I've no fotos, all the memories are perfectly exposed and in focus! Hope you all got a
chance to share this with friends, too!
                                                        Till later...
                                            ---> David R Street
From Tom Teters
 There were at least 70 people at Pawnee, about 30 cars, folks joining the fray until about 3:30am.
  If you weren't there, your going to hear a lot about this STORM, we approximated >10,000/hr
and the main shower lasted at least 2 1/2 hours.  It was  AWESOMEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!
There were at least 5 bolides that exploded  (See APOD Nov 18, 2001 ) 327K, but worth it!!
David Dunn, Pete Curry & I  (at least) took multiple pictues of the event.  I ran out of film!!
...and then let's talk about the 2 hour Zodiacal light that went to the zenith at it's max.

From Ray Warren: 11/19/01

The film is on its way for processing - stay tuned.

Ray Warren (KC0IUN), Terry Moore (KI0RE), Phil (AB0JR) and his wife, Don and his son (Terry
please fill in the details) on finding that Pawnee was clouded over, zipped out to the dark skies 10
miles East of Sterling. The skies were clear from horizon to horizon until morning. We split into two
teams and exposed one roll of Kodak Max-800.

It was a fantastic show.
Terry ran a video recorder, to capture meteors, if lucky, but mainly to get the sound.  At one point,
Terry suggested, "I'm going to say MARK every time I see a meteor."  Ray agreed to do the same
looking West.  The result was hilarious as well as revealing as to the magnitude of the storm.  There
is no doubt that the peak was at least 1 a second (3,600 an hour).

There was one particularly memorable meteor that fell out of Leo toward the East (it may be on film).
It was very bright then exploded at the end.  It left a trail that persisted for several minutes.  The
trail, over time, was actually blown into a loop toward the South.

Another memorable one entered very close to the radial source in Leo.  It was unique in that it appeared
to rest in one place and just shine.  When it went out, it too left a visible trail (all be it very short)
that appeared to have a bend in it.

Using amateur radio to coordinate the two camera sites worked very smoothly.  There were at least two
occasions where passing cars caused one or the other station to abort an exposure (so BOTH stations
closed the shutters).  Continuous communication allowed the cameras to be easily re-pointed.  When the
Zodiacal light threatened from the East, the cameras were simply re-pointed to the West.

After everything was packed and we were on the road heading out (6:00am), A really nice meteor fell
right in front of us. The trail resembled the boiling effect that is seen in time laps photos of clouds.
It had a green tint too.  One final gift from a night of WOW.

> In a message dated 11/18/01 1:42:14 PM Mountain Standard Time,
> gary30views@earthlink.net writes:
> > Early one that skipped thru sky
> Yes!  I saw several that "skipped", but until you said that I didn't
> realize that is what was happening--just thought 2 or 3 were very
> perfectly aligned each time (also possible).
              From Jan Kok:

Can meteors actually skip, like rocks over a lake?

Arguments against:

1) The effect of earth's gravity only bends the path of the meteor by tens
of feet in a few seconds. s=.5at^2, a=32ft/s^2.
2) There is not a sharp density gradient in the atmosphere, as there is
between air and water, which would provide a fixed direction (up-down) for
forces to act.
3) The "perfectly aligned" objects theory is plausible:  they might have
been connected by some ice which recently evaporated and allowed then to
drift apart slightly.
4) Perhaps there are regions of higher and lower density (e.g above high and
low pressure zones) that the meteors go through, so they glow in some areas
and not in others, as they go along an essentially straight path.

Argument for:

A space capsule can "skip" (curve its path) because of its wing-like shape.
And a curveball curves because its spin causes the speed of the air relative
to the surface to be greater on one side than the other.  (Mumble something
about Bernoulli here.)  Imagine a bowling pin shaped meteor with turbine
cups carved in the body, such that it spins around its axis (with axis
perpendicular to the direction of motion) when it hits the air.  Because of
different drag on the head than on the base of the bowling pin (more
precicely, different drag/mass), there is a force acting to change the axis
so that it would approach and become parallel with the direction of flight.
But because of precession (gyroscopic effect), the axis will actually change
in a different direction, so if the object was going horizontally east-west,
and the axis was initially north-south, the axis would precess to up-down
and then south-north, and so on.  And because of the curveball effect, the
object would go in a stretched-out corkscrew path that could dip into the
"glow zone" part of the atmosphere multiple times.

So which argument is correct?  I dunno, but physics sure can be phun! :-)

- Jan
*************************************************************                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     10/18/10 tjt Re-editted 01/06/11