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Our Aussie Outback Meteor Diary

Jane Houston Jones

Day One November 11, 2001
The 2001 Leonid Multi-instrument Aircraft Campaign has begun. Researchers arrived on Friday the 9th at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. They will begin outfitting the FISTA aircraft with cameras, go through debriefing and practice with the flux measurement software and hardware. Others drove to Mount Lemmon east of Tucson, and more yet made plans for Fremont Peak. But enough about them. We're off to Alice Springs!

Day two November 12, 2001
This day is lost as we cross the international date line. The good news is we had two breakfasts.

Day three November 13, 2001
About halfway to Australia, on the flight to Sydney, we looked out the window of the 747. We saw the Large Magellanic Cloud floating there in our galactic neighborhood. Later we saw the Southern Cross, and Venus, with the crescent moon behind us. It was cloudy and rainy most of our first afternoon and evening in Alice Springs.

Day four November 14, 2001
Today we made contact with members of the Alice Springs Astronomical Society, who offered their dark sky site to us for the Leonid nights. It is 4-wheel drive country, and none of them want to stay all night Sunday night. President Matt Pearce suggested an alternate site, a B&B 30 km out of town. We'll scout it tomorrow. We rented a car and for some practice drove to the ANZAC memorial. From that monument to Australian and New Zealand's servicemen, we looked across the town of Alice Springs to the ancient Macdonnell Range of mountains, split at the entrance to town by the Heavitree gap. At night, as Mojo worked on the meteor counting software we all will use in our research, I took my 9x63 binoculars out. Even though the light pollution from the green flourescent lamps at each bungalow at the Desert Palms resort reduced the limiting magnitude to between 2.9 and 4.8 I saw Mars in upside-down Capricornus. Saturn was near upside down Taurus, which was near upside down Orion. Canopus was rising higher by the hour, and then between Mars and Saturn, near Canopus I spotted the Large Magellanic Cloud, Small Magellanic Cloud, 47 Tucanae, and the Tarantula Nebula. Soon the false cross rose, and I almost spotted Crux low on the horizon. Try as I might, I never did see a faint Leonid.

Day 5 November 15, 2001
Today we scouted a good site, and arranged for it to be our Leonid observing location. The Bond Springs Outback Retreat is 30 km away from Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway. Actually it is on a dirt road 6.5 km off the Stuart Highway. If we stayed on the Stuart Highway and drove for 500 more kilometers we would come to the next town, which is Tennant Creek. Our reports will come from here on Leonid Sunday night, November 18 and Monday morning, November 19. The rest of the day was spent working on the software (Mojo) and arranging for meteor counting logistics and training on Saturday night (Jane). It's dusk now, and the afternoon clouds are clearing. We'll take another look at the sky when it is dark.

This will be the last report before Leonid night. It's time to put the Ephemeris to bed.

Jane and Mojo reporting from GMT +9.5 hours, 23 degrees 42 minutes South, 133 degrees, 52 minutes East.

Mail to: Jane Houston Jones
Copyright © 2001 San Jose Astronomical Association
Last updated: July 19, 2007

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