Leonids 2001 Fireball, night of November 18

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Details of the image: taken on 35mm print film (Kodak GT 800) near the end of the 2001 Leonids meteor shower, about 4 am PST (West Coast of the United States, latitude 45 north). Nikon Zoom lens set at about 60mm. Exposure about 8 minutes. We astronomers had all hoped for a truly epic meteor storm such as the Earth is wowed by once every century or two. The 2001 Leonids were not epic, but they were the most "wow-ful" meteor shower I've ever seen, and sporadically seemed to me to be "storming."

The fireball captured above came as a surprise gift. Me and my weary companions had had a slow period and were taking down our scopes, binoculars and cameras! In fact, two out of three of our cameras were already put away when this beauty flashed down and my one remaining camera just happened to be pointed at the right place (just to the west of Orion). The orange gaseous outbursts of vaporized meteor in this image are quite dramatic!

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last revision: 04/06/2004