Press Release

Leonid meteor storm materializes around expected peak time (UPDATE)

By SpaceRef Editor
November 18, 1999
Filed under

Experienced visual observers watching near Malaga and at the Sierra
Nevada Observatory in Spain and near the Gorges du Verdon in the French
Provence report that Leonid meteor activity peaked at up to 30 meteors
per minute shortly after 2 am Greenwich Mean Time. This activity was
characterized by a lot of faint meteors and almost no fireballs.

Meteor astronomers reduce the actual numbers of meteors seen to a
standard value, called the Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR), which takes
into account the quality of the sky as well as the direction from
which meteoroids enter the atmosphere. The peak activity reported by
the abovementioned groups of observers corresponds with a ZHR around
5000, which is considerably more than what most meteor observers had
hoped for (around 1000).

Preliminary reports of other observing groups at Tenerife, Canary
Islands, near Valencia in Spain, and in Jordan confirm the picture
sketched above.

Radio observations from Japan and the Czech Republic also indicate a
peak time between 2:00 and 2:10 am Greenwich Mean Time.

The observed peak time coincides almost perfectly with the peak time
of 2:08 am Greenwich Mean Time predicted by Asher and McNaught,
indicating that the activity was due to the dust trail created
the Leonids’ parent comet, Tempel-Tuttle, about 100 years ago
(i.e., 3 revolutions ago of the Comet around the Sun).

Marc Gyssens

International Meteor Organization

Below is a more technical description of the observed Leonid peak


I M O S h o w e r C i r c u l a r


LEONID Activity 1999

Visual observations of the 1999 Leonids revealed
a distinctive peak with a ZHR of about 5000 on
November 18, 2h05m +/-10m UT (solar longitude
235.287 +/- 0.007, eq. 2000.0). ZHR levels
were above 1000 from roughly 1h30m UT to 3h00m UT
corresponding to 235.26 to 235.32 degrees in solar

All observers who were able to view the peak under good
sky conditions reported an abundance of faint meteors and
a relative absence of fireballs. Some observers noticed
a drop in the population index (i.e., a larger fraction of
brighter meteors) after the peak.

Reports from Mohammad Odeh (Jordanian Astronomical Society)
and Casper ter Kuile (Dutch Meteor Society, observing near
Valencia, Spain) are very consistent with the picture sketched

In addition, radio data from K. Maegawa (Toyokawa Meteor Observatory,
Aichi, Japan) reported by Kazuhiro Suzuki and the backscatter
radar data from Ondrejov Observatory (Czech Republic) reported by
Petr Pridal and Rosta Stork yield a peak time between 2h00m UT
and 2h10m UT.

It seems that the peak time of 2h08m UT predicted by Asher/McNaught
is confirmed within a margin of at most a few minutes, although the
observed activity is significantly higher. It is reasonable to
conclude that the peak activity has been caused by the 3-revolutions
old dust trail of 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.

The following observers have contributed data immediately
after the event, from which the ZHR profile given below
has been derived:

Per Aldrich, C.L. Chan, Asdai Diaz, Yuwei Fan, Fei Gao,
Lew Gramer, Andre Knoefel, Wen Kou, Alastair McBeath,
Tom Roelandts, Sirko Molau, Renke Song, Wanfang Song,
Honglin Tao, Dan Xia, Dongyan Zha, Jinghui Zhang, Yan
Zhang, Jin Zhu.

(For groups of observers, only the name of the contributing
observer has been mentioned.)

Date   Period (UT)  ZHR  +-
Nov 17 0600-1000 16 2
Nov 17 1600-2010 30 5
Nov 17 1900-2200 53 14
Nov 18 0030-0100 130 90
Nov 18 0100-0115 490 230
Nov 18 0115-0130 770 160
Nov 18 0130-0145 1040 660
Nov 18 0145-0202 4100 840
Nov 18 0200-0215 5000 1100
Nov 18 0212-0230 2400 280
Nov 18 0243-0247 1100 160
Nov 18 0320-0330 470 70
Nov 18 0420-0430 180 40

ZHRs are computed with a population index of 2.0, zenithal
exponent of 1.0.

Marc Gyssens, 1999 November 18, 7h UT.

[email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.