Bill Arnett, Redwood City


I spent about a half hour staring in to blue sky looking for bright meteors. This is the deepest blue sky I've seen for a while. Very nice. But no fireballs.

By Nightlight:

I watched for an hour from 2 am to 3 am PST 10/17 from my balcony. The sky was mostly cloudy but there were extensive holes for most of the time. I saw 18 meteors, all Leonids I think, at least half of them brighter than Sirius. One was so bright I can't estimate its magnitude; it was at least as bright as the brightest Iridium flare I've seen (-6).

Sandra Macika

We saw some meteors at Mercy Hot Springs near Los Banos. There was some clouds when I arrived, but the sky was gorgeously dark for about midnight to 2 am. We did some recording, but then the clouds came back. We saw quite a few meteors in the -2 range.

Jeff Crilly, Palo Alto

I was treated to some of the most dazzling meteors I had ever seen. These were very bright, brighter than jupiter. Even with the light polluted skies and cloud cover, these meteors were leaving trails that were visible for up to 5 seconds.

Paul Sterngold, Alameda:

I stood outside for 45 minutes and observed about a dozen bright shooters, several of which left trails for 2-3 seconds.

Robert Hoyle, Clayton

...had some nice clear skies here in Clayton, Ca. (LVM for me about 6.0). Saw 10 meteors -- about 4 with nice trails. None terribly bright, though.

Ray Cash, San Francisco:

I rose at 2:30 am and peeked out the window--a huge sucker hole... went up to the roof (after waking wife, who joined me)... and pretty much saw what most of you guys saw (that were lucky enough to have clear skies, that is): a preponderance of bright meteors, of -1 mag or brighter about one a minute, maybe more.

Rod Norden, Santa Cruz

I saw 51 Leonids, with 18 leaving visible trails, one of which was visible for over 2 minutes (from mag -1 meteor). The brightest was only -2 (brighter than Sirius) with a train lasting 45 seconds. I would estimate the average magnitude about 2.

William Phelps (PAS) Foothills Park

Arrived at 4 am, and observed roughly 20-30/hour between the clouds. All were fast and bright. One lit up the clouds so brightly at first I thought it might be lightning. Had to take a break around 5:15 for a brief shower of an altogether different (and wet) nature, but resumed observing again at 5:30. All in all a pretty good show considering the weather.

Evan Garber, Marin:

Watched for over an hour and saw 36 - three were very bright, do not know magnitude but they were brighter than Jupiter and left trails that could be seen for 15 to 20 seconds.

Bill Ferris, Arizona:

Was observing at Anderson Mesa (Lowell Observatory) near Flagstaff...The display prompted us to developed our own meteor nomenclature. "Puff Daddies" were the ones that went pffft over a short distance. The other categories included "Whoas," "Double Whoas," and the "Triple-Double Whoas."

Mark Taylor

On November 16 I arrived at Fremont Peak at 10:30 pm with high hopes of seeing a Leonid meteor storm.

It was drizzling and the fog was so heavy that I couldn't even see a hint of the tower lights from the workshop parking lot. In fact I could barely even see my hand at arm's length without adding some photons to the equation.

I've never seen the Peak so dark, empty or eerie as it was right then.

But still I held onto my hopes; the satellite imagery seemed to indicate that the clouds would pass through the area by around 2 am -- "prime time" for watching a meteor shower.

Over the next hour the wind picked up and blew away large gobs of fog.

A few others had arrived in time to see patches of crystal clear sky and some translucent areas showing stars to mag 3. A couple Leonids were seen just by looking up to check conditions. But 30 minutes later the fog was back as dense as before.

By 2 am the rain was pouring and the wind howling so intensely that I expected to see the Edmund Fitzgerald blow past!

I decided to get some sleep, and I set an alarm to wake me occasionally throughout the night. Unfortunately there was never any starry sky to be seen.

When I woke at 6:30 it was still drizzling.

I was ready to leave, but remembering that I hadn't taken the time to pay my fees the evening before, I placed my $3 day use fee into an envelope, carefully checked the "Boat Use" box, and slipped it into the pay slot.

Just a mile or so down the hill from the park the sky was 50% open and no rain was falling at all. I guess a rain cloud had gotten snagged on the flagpole as it tried to pass over the hilltop.

Hopefully it has since escaped and left the stars visible from Fremont Peak once again.

Bob Garfinkle

I had to go to southeastern Georgia for a business meeting November 16.

The next night I was able to observe the Leonids from the comfort of my new 1998 Mustang convertible, courtesy of Budget Rental Cars.

I drove around the area near my hotel on the outskirts of St. Marys, GA, which was about 15 miles inland from the Atlantic, until I found a dart spot with a wide view of the open sky.

About 11:00 p.m. EST, I parked the car facing east. I put the top down and reclined the seat back. I have to say that this is vastly more comfortable than sitting on a lawn chair on a cold November night looking for streaks in the sky.

The windows protected me from the cool slight breeze. The temperature was about 50 degrees with clear skies. The Pleiades were clearly visible naked-eyed as individual stars, most of the time.

An occasional faint streak raced upward across the sky from the eastern horizon before Leo's head emerged out of the atmospheric haze about 10 to 15 degrees thick along the tree-toped horizon.

By 1:30 a.m. on the 18th, the meteors were coming at a rate of about one every five to ten minutes. All of these meteors were faint, except for three. The steadiness of the air was very good (about 3 on the scale) at this time.

About 2 a.m. the pace picked up to about one streak per minute. I probably missed some of the fainter ones as a thin mist began to blow across my field of view and the dew built up rapidly on the windshield. The sudden buildup indicated that my viewing time was rapidly coming to a close.

The temperature was rapidly dropping and I could feel moisture. Zosma was just above the top of the windshield and Denolola was emerging out of the trees. By 2:30, the fog rolled in and put out the starry lights.

I hope that those of you who were on the West Coast had a great show.

Editor's Note: In July, Bob was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. The RAS was founded in 1820 with Sir William Herschel serving as the Charter President. Many of the top astronomers of the last 2 centuries have been elected membership in this organization. Congratulation Bob.

Bob will represent SJAA as our speaker at the star party at De Anza/Foothill Collage on March 19 next year. More info later.

Jack Zeiders

I waited until almost 2:30 AM to leave the house as the weather looked completely closed out due to low clouds and rain.

While listening to Art Bell (okay I admit it) I heard some guy in New Mexico or Arizona start talking about all the great fireballs he was seeing. This sparked my flagging interest and I looked outside to see some holes in the clouds.

I logged off the computer and grabbed my binoculars and camera gear and headed out for Coe Park. I saw a brillient flash above the clouds while driving down 101.

I pulled off near a truck park and stepped out to look for meteors though some bigger holes. I counted 6 Leonids in 10 minutes, most about 2nd mag I was looking near the radient.

Thus fortified I drove up to Henry Coe as I remembered Jim Van Nuland had said he would be there.

About half way up the clouds obliterated the sky and thickened near the park. Jim had closed up shop, covered his mount and retreated to his campervan.

I tapped on the window and advised him of openings in the clouds at lower altitude and many meteors through said openings. Then I beat a retreat back down the road until I came to a nice curve with a widespot to pull off the road and several openings in the clouds.

Leo's head was clear and crisp with green emteors flashing brightly. I made another 10 minute count of 7 Leonids. After a failed attempt to shoot pictures, I had camera, tripod, film, etc. however the advance lever had come adrift in the camera bag rendering that machine uncooperative for the moment.

I watched a few more bright, -2 to -4 Leonids before the clouds reclaimed the sky from this location.

Jane Houston

Once a part of old Monterey County, Mercey Hot Springs is just beyond the southwest San Benito County Border in Fresno County.

The springs were first used by native North Americans. Legend has it, according to a 1916 Evening Freelance, that Indians would travel all the way from San Diego to visit.

On Monday, November 16th six brave souls drove through the heavy clouds after watching dismal weather forecasts on the internet.

Cutting accross the Pacheco Pass, rolling down Interstate 5 to Little Panoche Road, on we traveled to Mercey Hot Springs. Humming Jerry Lee Lewis's hit from the past, Great Balls of Fire, we gathered in hopes that the Great Leonid Meteor Storm would sprinkle a little stardust our way to be captured in our cameras, our recording logs and our imaginations.

First to arrive were Chris Angelos and Sandra Macika. Sandra was the coordinator for this site - one of three organized by Dr. Peter Jenniskens, SJAA Amateur and Meteor guy Mike Koop and Chris Angelos, who were hoping to put some organization and observing methods into place.

Those guys were preparing to fly over the clouds in the far east with the Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign, an airborne astrobiology mission to observe the Leonids over Okinawa.

From midnight till 4 am our weather ran the gamut from clear and warm to cold and wet. We could'nt even keep our charts from dewing over. It was THAT wet.

I crawled into my sleeping mag, flashlight in hand, just like I did at summer camp oh so many years ago, and read my charts in the warm enclosed air. Dainty raindrops soon were tap tap tapping on the outside of the sleeping bag. They made such a racket!

We never were able to do much more than plot a few of the brighter meteors, holler "oh wow" into our tape recorders, when the cloudy sky brightened from a magnitude -8 fireball.

On the way down the road, we began seeing a really nice clearing, and many meteors.

At 12:55 a double flash split by one degree changed color from yellow to orange. 15 degrees from Corvus - 12:59 UTC - yellow to orange to red a whopper. A huge audible WOW emanated from my cassette recorder in three part harmony - three happy meteor observers in awe of the unfolding spectacle. 10 degrees above Corvus a horizontal meteor a split second later. Then another. And another.

We saw a couple dozen leonids within a span of about 15 minutes, capped with the brilliant Zodiacal Light, a cone of light pointing toward the milky way above.

It was time for the drive home, after a surprising and thrilling ending to a meteorically challenged night.

Bill Arnett; last updated: 1998 Dec 16 Prev Next