Recollections from the1999 Leonid Meteor Storm

Ever since I was clouded out of the great Leonid meteor storm in 1966 at the age of 11, I had vowed not to miss the next favorable apparition of this once every 33-year event.  The plan was to join my boyhood friend, Joe Rao(who was similarly clouded-out in the Bronx more than three decades ago), in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain,  and eclipse-chasing compatriots Craig Small, Joel Moskowitz, and John Beattie to observe from under the very typically clear and crisp skies of that locale.  As Joe is so fond of reminding us, however, "climate is what you expect, weather is what you get".  Thus, at 21:40 U.T. on 17 November 1999, eight of us found ourselves fleeing an abysmally overcast sky in a last-minute chartered Beech 1900D aircraft for the clear dry skies of Western Morocco and were greeted with a stunningly memorable event. With deepest appreciation to Charile Cooper and Eyad Atallah at State University of New York, Albany's, Department of  Earth and Atmospheric Sciences for their remote and real-time assistance in selecting our alternate observing site, and with profound empathy for Joe who stuck it out on Lanzarote only to have Murphey's Law  once again thwart his efforts, here is a very brief summary of this excursion.

Reveling in the dark skies from a remote field 30 km outside of El Agadir, Morocco (seen on horizon), Glenn Schneider standing below Canis Major, awaits the appearance of next  Leonid meteor. With 1-2 per second pouring out of Leo during the peak of the  shower (at 2:08UT) he didn't have to wait long. (Click image for annotated sky map.)

There's one!  And a bright one at that.  Blazing toward the southwest as it streaks past the Pleadies. 
(For a better look, click on the meteor.)

And another.  A shorter trail, moving slower (in perspective) as at falls out of the radiant over the distant Moroccan city lights.  Click on the image for a closer view.

Mission accomplished.  Returning to Lanzarote, Canary Islands at 07:00 UT and bidding a fond farewell to our chartered Beech 1900D, we see first hand the remnant dismal weather* from which we fled to Africa.

* Click HERE to see a Meteosat thermal IR image of the Canary Islands, southern Europe, and NW Africa near the peak of the meteor shower (02:00 UT).  Heavy clouds and rain engulfed the Canary's during the peak viewing period.  The Moroccan skies were perfectly clear. (The diffuse light band running SW to NE through Morocco on this image is the thermal IR imaging of the Atlas mountains, it is not cloud or water vapor.)

Want more information on the 1999 Leonid meteor storm?  See the Leonids Live web site.

Return to Glenn Schneider's Home Page.