To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Leonids


Hi, all,

      I was pleased by the letter I mentioned in the last email because I had talked to Pebbles about the Leonids meteor shower a few days before the event, and she wrote about talking her family into staying up to watch it and how much they loved it. The meteor storm that hit this side of the world--which was much more intense than the wing of it that had hit your side 8 hours earlier--was astounding. It didn't live up to some predictions that it would top the storm of `65 or `66, but it was the biggest thing since, according to the press. I would guess that I saw a meteor every three seconds on average between about 2:30 and 3:30--sometimes bursts of eight or ten in two or three seconds--with a gradual build-up in intensity before that and a sharp fall-off afterwards. That's something like 1200 meteors an hour that I saw, and of course I couldn't see the whole sky at once so I must have missed at least half of the total. Not only were there more than I'd ever seen, but they were by far the brightest. Half of them were big enough to leave green spectral trails that hung behind them for a few seconds; several left trails that lasted a minute or more, and one left a trail hanging for more than four minutes before it became too dim to see (I could watch the shape of it gradual distorting as it faded). There were several fireballs every minute, many bright enough to cast shadows on the ground. All day, I'd waited glumly, because it was completely overcast. Around sunset, about a third of the sky cleared, so I'd hoped I'd have a few windows in the clouds big enough to see the sky through, but by eight it was raining and completely cloudy again. By 11, there were open areas again, but by midnight they were closed up again. When I went out to look at 1 am, to decide whether or not to head out to a hilltop sweet potato field with a broad open view of the sky and mountains screening it from all settlement and real roads, there were large openings in the clouds. By the time I got to the field, it was 95% clear, and it stayed that way until about quarter to four, when the intensity of the storm had begun to fall off sharply, and within a few minutes the clouds had completely closed in again. They had opened immediately before the storm and closed immediately after. It was an astounding display.
      I got a few good photos, but I'd been pretty casual about photography so I wouldn't miss any of the show, and dew covered my lenses and filters long before the storm reached its full intensity anyway. The best of my shots are at (to be posted when I can rescan them--they died in the hard disk crash, and my brinkster site dumped everything when I was away for a while). I'll keep trying to get better scans of the one of the really bright meteor--the photo looks great, and I can't figure out why I can't make a decent scan of it.

O genki de

Peter

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