Leonid meteor shower, 18 November 2001

All photos on this page are copyright Brian Rachford 2001.

I went up the Colorado high country for the Leonids. My observing site was the large parking area for the Mayflower Gulch hiking/4WD trailhead at about 11,000ft elevation between Copper Mountain and Leadville. I shot photos and counted meteors from about 1:30am to 5:00am (8:30-12:00UT). I lost part of my records for the photo timings, but the photos on this page were very close to 10 minute exposures (except the last one) with no tracking. I was using a 35mm f/2.8 lens stopped down to f/4 and Kodak Supra 800 film. I didn't do much image processing here, just the usual brightness and contrast stuff, and in a couple cases I applied a light "sharpen" algorithm to help the fainter meteors. I scanned the photos at 150dpi, except where noted. There was some skyglow in the lower part of some of the frames coming from the town of Copper Mountain and its ski resort about 5 miles away.

[178K JPEG]
This photo has 5 visible meteors and was taken as the count rates were increasing to their peak (I had a visual average of 8 per minute for about 1.5 hours). Polaris is in the lower left and the bowl of the Big Dipper is in the lower right.

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This is a section of the photo taken just after the previous one, showing two bright meteors just below the bowl of the Big Dipper. Note the transition from green to red from the beginning to end of the meteor. (There is no thumbnail on this one; this is the full cropped image.)

[133K JPEG]
Now we get to the really good stuff. This photo has 11 Leonids! The entire Big Dipper is shown, southeastward through the top of Leo. A few of the faint ones may be hard to see on some monitors, but they are all visible on my inexpensive 17" display. If you can't find them all, go to the next photo.

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This is an annotated version of the previous photo, tracing the meteors back to the radiant.

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This was taken about 20 minutes after the previous one and is looking toward the northwest. Ironically, the brightest meteor I caught was a sporadic!! [I.e., a non-shower meteor.] This version of the photo does not clearly show all the meteors in the frame.

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Here is a close-up of that bright sporadic, with a lingering, drifting trail. You can also see several very faint Leonids. This was scanned at 300dpi.

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OK, now for the showstopper. This is a 200dpi version of the entire frame, with a little extra image enhancement. On the original print, I count 16 Leonids, plus the sporadic fireball!! They are all visible on the jpeg, but it's tough to find some of them in such a cluttered field. Remember, this is centered about 90 degrees from the radiant! This is a huge image (almost 700KB), so you'll need some patience if you are on a dial-up connection.

[165K JPEG]
Finally, this frame taken near 10:30UT, has a mere 5 Leonids. However, this is only a 4 minute exposure or thereabouts, so the rate is still high. Unfortunately, I also caught something flying a bit lower than the rest!


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