Sunday, November 18, 2001: I sat in my backyard from 2:30 to 5AM this morning and was treated to the most spectacular display of meteors I've ever seen. These Leonids were even better than the Perseids I saw in Death Valley.
The temperature was in the 40's and it
was clear, but the skies over lower Westchester County, NY are not very
dark. I took the easy if not ideal viewing option and just set up a lawn
chair in my backyard.
The meteors were numerous and brilliant. Smaller meteors appeared several times a minute on average. Very bright meteors appeared once every minute or two. Then there were the huge fireballs that left a persistent glowing trail in the sky for 5-10 seconds afterwards. One was so intense that as I was facing east, my yard lit up and I thought for a moment that my neighbor had turned on his backyard flood light. I turned around in time to see a large bright white fireball appearing to move more slowly than most, leaving a long flaming trail. This was the meteor of the night. Unfortunately, my camera was pointed east. I also saw several "doubles", twin meteors streaking in parallel.
All picture were taken with a tripod mounted Nikon FM using a Nikor 24mm f2.0 lens. Film was Kodak Ektachrome 200. Exposure was f2.0 in all cases. Unfortunately, I had a big problem with dew, and my camera lens kept fogging.
Click on the pictures to see larger images.
|You can clearly see the Big Dipper in this picture. The meteor is to the left of the handle. The exposure was less than 5 seconds. On the slide, the sky is very dark and the meteor is a deep red color. The dark area at bottom left is the chimney and part of the roof of my house.||This meteor is much higher up in the sky. It appears to come out of the trees just above the top pair of stars making up the dipper of the Big Dipper. The exposure was about 10-15 seconds, so the sky is much lighter than in the first picture. As a result, this slide scanned very well.||This was a longer exposure as can be discerned by the star trails. Perhaps 5 minutes? In the full size image, the sky is so light it almost looks like day. Yes, I should have gone someplace with darker skies and a better view of the horizon. You can see the meteor in the upper left corner of the picture near the thin tree branches projecting down from the top of the picture.|
The pictures are as disappointing as the meteors themselves were spectacular. From over 30 slides, only 3 had a discernable image of a Leonid meteor.
Around 4AM I heard the sound of jets. Two small points of light, one in trail of the other, streaked overhead, moving Northeast very high, very fast, very loud. Obviously military, the sound of freedom.