Leonid Meteor Shower
November 18, 2001 1:33 AM   Subscribe

Leonid Meteor Shower - Hot or Not? Was it a once-in-a-lifetime event, as was billed, or did you just find yourself standing out in the cold and looking straight up? I'm on my way outside right now to shiver & stare.
posted by kokogiak (58 comments total)
Sigh. It's cloudy here in Toronto and the city lights seem to make the sky too bright to make anything else. If someone could post a live feed to where I could watch it, it'd be much appreciated. Even though I'm sure it'll be on the news tomorrow anyway.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:43 AM on November 18, 2001

Here's a potentially useful link.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:52 AM on November 18, 2001

too hazy here
posted by corpse at 2:04 AM on November 18, 2001

it's perfect in san francisco, which is truly incredible given our usual weather patterns. it's amazing. thanks for the reminder.
posted by elle at 2:14 AM on November 18, 2001

Not bad here in Rockport, MA. Just came back in. Saw several dozen in about 20 minutes....
posted by rglasmann at 2:15 AM on November 18, 2001

thanks so much for the reminder! i just stepped outside here in the mountains west of boulder, colorado and was treated to about 40-50 sightings in 15 minutes. crystal-clear skies and very little light pollution made for some good viewing.
posted by irix at 2:18 AM on November 18, 2001

Coincidentally, Orb's "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld" is perfect shower viewing music. A dozen or so made their way thru the marine layer/haze in Orange County, CA. I very well should have gone to the desert with my friends to see this.
posted by dincognito at 2:21 AM on November 18, 2001

I saw 4. Cool, but 4 nonetheless. Doesn't help that I live in LA. NY may have invented light pollution, but I think LA perfected it.
posted by owillis at 2:24 AM on November 18, 2001

The night was clear here up on the Baltic and, though we weren't in a great area for seeing them this year, we walked out last night (about seven or eight hours ago) down the dark road that goes past the cemetery and saw some lovely falling stars. A few of the lower ones were a beautiful bright greenish-blue.
posted by pracowity at 2:24 AM on November 18, 2001

Awesome in San Francisco. I went outside, watched for two minutes, then went in and woke up the wife and all four boys, and we stood outside shivering for fifteen minutes and watched the show. It was nowhere near the projected number of shooting stars, or possibly we couldn't see many of the fainter ones because of the city lights, but we probably saw one every 20 seconds, and one every minute that was significantly brighter than any of the stars and traced 10-20 degrees of arc through the sky. Beautiful.
posted by JParker at 2:26 AM on November 18, 2001

Sixty-five miles east of Portland, Ore., was partly cloudy and got worse. But there were streaks where you'd see meteors every three or four seconds. I'm happy.
posted by wiinga at 2:37 AM on November 18, 2001

just stepped inside for a few mins..

been out watching them for ~2 hours now (hey.. I'm in FL.. the temp is almost 70deg F out!).

I stopped counting after about 1,000 or so. hahah..

...goin back ouT!
posted by BlitzK at 2:40 AM on November 18, 2001

Brrr. Damn cold - but unbelievably clear (!!) here in Seattle - came back to check on the thread & get warm ;)

I saw at least 40 or more big ones, many smaller ones - It's strange how many different diections they seem to go. Maybe it's the haze up here, but some of the trails seemed to have a greenish-blue tint that hung around for a while. One very nice one broke up into a few smaller bits.

It's times like this I wish I still lived in Farm country. I'm off again. Good luck all. (also, for those who care - NASA is broadcasting some coverage - site is slow though)
posted by kokogiak at 2:42 AM on November 18, 2001

The greenish-blue trails are glowing ionized particles.
posted by BlitzK at 3:02 AM on November 18, 2001

Very good in Central AZ. Sometimes 5-6 a minute, that I could see, my view was somewhat obstructed by my apt. building. Was listening to a Leary tribute (to rest my neck) on Radio Valve til it dropped into bufferland.
posted by aflakete at 3:34 AM on November 18, 2001

Just got back from one of the local mountains in Vancouver (Cypress). The view was amazing (and cold), but we saw quite a few meteors. Not quite 70 per minute, but at times several swooshed by in a span of a few seconds.

The view was great, and the weather was perfect. Unfortunately, a lot of other people had the same idea, and it was very busy coming down from the mountain. But it was worth it...
posted by kaefer at 3:54 AM on November 18, 2001

Despite the overcast clearing up shortly after sunset, the combination of light pollution and plain old pollution pollution here in Seoul makes it a big bust for me.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:02 AM on November 18, 2001

I headed a few miles out of town (Portland, Oregon) to get away from the light pollution. I managed to see several hundred meteors, all over the sky, over the course of an hour and a half. It was cold, but spectacular.
posted by yourpalbill at 4:17 AM on November 18, 2001

Lookin' pretty good here in Seattle... Every couple of minutes a half-hour ago. Lots of light pollution, though.
posted by j.edwards at 4:29 AM on November 18, 2001

I headed out into the Blue Ridge mountains. I saw several hundred, including reds, pinks, oranges, and greens. A few seemed to having the quality of a skipping stone. Some were just streaks, some brilliant heads trailing streaks, and a very few would streak then give a big flash. The max simultaneously in my view at once was probably five. As advertised, most did seem to be flowing away from the same point in the sky, but every now and then there would be one that was on an independent path. Usually the glowing trails would linger just long enough for that "Did I really see that?" double take for confirmation, but some would last for several seconds. One I did not see directly did lght up the ground very distinctly, and it's trail lingered for more than 10 seconds, eventually getting pulled and reshaped in the sky like an airplane contrail before fading out.

I originally intended to watch from one of the higher altitude overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but those spots on the eastern edge of the range were clouded over. Luckily, I knew from my approach that less than two miles west it was perfectly clear. So got back to the west of 81 and into a very sleepy town, found a sheltered, treeless place well away from the town's few feeble lights took in the show for at least an hour.
posted by NortonDC at 6:02 AM on November 18, 2001

Athens, GA - only saw the brightest, we had no opportunity to get out of town so it was just a backyard adventure complete with the rosy glow of Georgia Square Mall a few miles away but we still saw 130 bright little flashes from 4:30am to 6. My daughter had never seen a meteor before. Well, she's seen some now! Well worth a bit of a groggy Sunday.
posted by jfuller at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2001

Savannah, GA - Wonderful skies, particularly from the beaches.
posted by GirlFriday at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2001

Tallahassee, FL - Was using the bathroom around 5:00am, when my roomate knocked on the door and told me to get my bootay outside.

Looked up in the air, and about every 3-5 seconds I would see one.

Very fast little things. you could only see each one for about a second, probably less.

It was cold outside, with a clear sky. We have a big backyard so it was perfect to see them.

I stayed outside for about 20-30 minutes, then I went back to bed.
posted by ewwgene at 7:52 AM on November 18, 2001

The show for North American DID come off as predicted, as long as you didn't just watch the thing for 5 minutes and were at a sufficiently dark location.

The ZHR reached about 1250 meteors/hour and of course, even though many can be seen in places like San Fran, you aren't going to see anywhere near that many unless they were all fireballs, which they weren't going to be. People in the mountains observed rates of over 2000 meteors/hour.

The only thing that was off was most of the peak activity predictions. The peak was supposed to be at around 5AM eastern and it seemed to arrive more at 6AM eastern.
posted by yupislyr at 8:02 AM on November 18, 2001

Got up at 3:30 this morning. Minneapolis news said the best viewing times would be from 4:00 to 5:00, but, alas, when I wandered outside I found myself looking at about 80% cloud cover. The few holes provided glimpses of about 30 meteors, but by 3:45 clouds blanketed the sky.
posted by mrbula at 8:37 AM on November 18, 2001

I too set my alarm for 4:00 am. But the fog in Chicago and the lure of sleep sent my right back to bed with no sightings. Oh well.
posted by mapalm at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2001

Figures this was the night West Michigan (god nows how much -- from Grandville to Grand Haven) was covered with an immensely thick fog. Driving home (at about 2 AM, thanks to child labor laws my coworkers all left me with their work) I couldn't see further than my headlights. If that far.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:49 AM on November 18, 2001

As I looked around me at 4:45 AM and saw all the faces staring hopingly up into the distant stars, why did I suddently feel like I was part of some coming close encounter of the third kind?
posted by Voyageman at 9:01 AM on November 18, 2001

I live in NYC, woke up at 4AM, and looked out the window. I had a very limited view of the sky, barely any out of that window, but in about 20 minutes i saw maybe 12 or 14 meteors.

It wasn't that amazing, I found myself falling asleep staring at the sky.

The weather really was surprisingly clear though, and even with all of the lights I saw a nice amount.
posted by yevge at 9:15 AM on November 18, 2001

I watched from 5 - 6am here in New York and did see a lot of great streaks, but not nearly as much as what was predicted on the news all night. I think the lights from Manhattan were a little too bright to make watching really possible from here.

Although watching meteors streak colorfully accross the sky above a red, white and blue empire state building was a comforting sight.
posted by tomorama at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2001

Wotta Smackdown!


I made it all the way to the roof of my building on the hill here--as in "Hill..Capitol Hill..." in soon to be MeFiSeattle, and saw beau coup sparkly streaks and trails but not the fireballs (big green glowy things with appreciable surface area...) of my childhood.

Amos Milburn & the Campbell Brothers with Katie Jackson, among others, on the boombox, by the way...

And a number of bats. What in the hell are bats doing out in cold weather? (I had some lawnchairs stashed up there--droit du apartment manager--and it is my urban campground in summer on those rare-as-Leonids-warm-enough-to-sleep-outdoors nights: nothing like lying in a lawn chair on a hot moonlit night and having a bat zip over the parapet and the y2karl lap at an elevation of 18" higher than said lap!) Doesn't seem like there'd be bugs enough to justify bats in November...

I lasted until 3 AM but, man, did I needed to be reminded of what dewpoint really means? Brrr!
posted by y2karl at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2001

Made our way up to Snoqualmie pass, 1.5 hr east of Seattle. Found a road out of a ski area parking lot that was fairly deserted. I set up my chaise lounge and bivy sack, got all my warm clothes on and opened the thermos right around 2:00 AM pst.

We were there for about an hour and a half, my experience was alot like Norton DC's. Infact, we must have seen the same big'un, right around 2:45 or 3 DC? We saw easily 100 meteors of varying color.

I was really impressed at the consistency of the show, and the brightness of individual meteors. I'm pretty sure I've seen a storm with a higher peak frequency though... but I was probably father out of the city.
posted by daver at 10:50 AM on November 18, 2001

Minneapolis at 3:00 a.m: one meteor through a very small break in the clouds. Back to bed. Up again at 4:30--almost complete overcast, bleah. Back to bed. Up again at 6:00--almost completely clear! Saw several bright fireballs and a couple of smoke trails; still too bright in the city to make out colors (competition from railyards, Interstate, Rosedale mall area, etc.). By 6:00, it was too late to drive out to the country to see the full show, too, but the front-yard view was still worth it.
posted by gimonca at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2001

Having been habituated by years and years of Star Trek, I kept wanting the meteors to make that whoosh sound as they streaked across the sky.
posted by idiolect at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2001

Toronto was indeed overcast and cloudy. I sat awake until 5am hoping for a clearing (and I know a good viewing spot far from the city lights) - but it never came.
posted by mkn at 11:35 AM on November 18, 2001

eleven miles outside of philadelphia; watched from two until dawn. there were a few minutes where there were multiple meteors in the sky at all times, and at one point I counted six simultaneous streaks. definitely worth the frozen toes.
posted by rabi at 11:45 AM on November 18, 2001

Hot hot hot! Me and my friends got smart and

1. headed way the hell out of town to a forest road in Snoqualmie [WA] and then drove up this road until we saw a tower and thought 'okay, this must be the top'.

2. took the top down in the convertible we were driving and sat completely piled in blankets with warm asses and watched for a few hours.

I was probably right near you, daver. I saw hundreds and hundreds of meteors with varying brightness, intensity and color and they were still going strong when we headed home around 3 am. It was neat to see everyone on the road that late at night and know that most of them were driving around because they were all sharing in the same chilly outdoor stargazing experience.
posted by jessamyn at 11:48 AM on November 18, 2001

Central NJ, right in the middle of a dense suburb, with all variety of house lights and street lights everywhere I looked.

A beautiful show. At one point, three one-second meteors were visible in the same part of the sky simultaneously. Also saw one or two with appreciable surface area, and some with lingering trails. One if them even seemed to bounce.
posted by Ptrin at 11:49 AM on November 18, 2001

Salt Lake City -- Rain.

I set the alarm for 2:00 AM in order to wake the kids so they could see the "once-in-a-lifetime" show, but unfortunately it started to rain at about midnight and kept it up until sunup.

Too bad, from what I saw on the NASA channel it was fairly spectacular.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2001

Years ago when I was a kid, my parents woke me up at 3am, demanding that I go outside. It was, of course, late fall in northern Canada, so I figured they had gone insane.

...I went outside, and the whole goddamn sky was electric pink, from horizon to horizon. It was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen -- like being at the bottom of an enormous pile of electric pink needles, all shifting and flowing. Probably the biggest display of aurora in the last several decades, at least. I'd seen aurora before, naturally, but that night was just plain weird.

I mention this purely by way of assuaging my pain at missing the meteors. Stupid clouds.
posted by aramaic at 2:12 PM on November 18, 2001

Im in Vancouver, BC and the meteors were pretty good.

One really good blue-green meteor was really bright and left a trail in the sky that was visible for about 30 seconds...
posted by Iax at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2001

Drove 120 miles to Ellensburg, WA to escape Seattle light polution, and it was totally worth it. As predicted, by 2am PT there was at least one every few seconds, some big splash-pow ones, too. We sat out in 19 degree cold next to Mattoon Lake, across from which are the usual Ellensburg pit-stop places; in town things were far less visible than from across the lake.

While we brought what we thought was an excess in stay-warm stuff, we made the mistake of sitting out there for 8 hours before the show even started. As it got colder, dew formed over all of our stuff, then froze. By 3am we were too miserable to sit through the rest, and got a hotel room. Seems like 19 degrees F ought to be nothing; I've spent winters at 10 below. Never tried sitting still in it for hours on no sleep, however.

What we saw was totally worth the substantial effort to avoid city lights and the suffering of the cold.
posted by dan_of_brainlog at 3:38 PM on November 18, 2001

It was pretty crap in Canberra, Australia. Lying in the long wet grass on top of a hill near Tidbinbilla, we saw maybe two or three a minute through the thin cloud cover.

However, according to reports from the National Space Centre this morning, this was all there was to see - estimates range from 500/hour (one every 7 seconds) to 150/hour (one every 24 seconds).

I went out last year to watch the Leonids, and was equally disappointed - 'celestial fireworks' indeed. I say we round up all the astronomers, load them into catapults, set them on fire and launch them into the skies instead.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:49 PM on November 18, 2001

One thing I left out--watching the meteors, there was an uncanny sense that they were close, much closer than their heavenly cohorts. Of course they were, but I'm not sure what made them look so much closer, since they were all miles away
posted by NortonDC at 5:24 PM on November 18, 2001

Me, my sister, and my boyfriend drove out about 30 minutes north from where we live to a great location just past Lake Castaic, "Templen" exit I believe, off of the 5 freeway in Southern California. We were laughing at how many cars and people were out there! My sister kept count and was missing a ton of them happening behind her head: 252 in 30 minutes and then she stopped counting and just enjoyed. You just couldn't see all of them, they were happening all over! Saw the same huge one mentioned above by Norton, I think! It lit up the sky. Several "skipped" like a flat stone over water. Only colours I saw were greenish and yellowish meteors. Several (at least 5) got brighter in a small explosion at the end of their trail. It was a gorgeous show. I go out to watch the Leonids every year and this year just blew all others away. Many of the meteors would fall in tandem; we saw 3 - 5 simultaneous meteors many times in the hour and a half we were out there ( 2 - 3:30 AM ). I'm so glad I did it. My sister said something while we were out there that I totally agreed with and I won't forget: "I feel very alive right now."
posted by rio at 5:30 PM on November 18, 2001

Viewing was phenomenal in southern New Hampshire between 4-5 AM. So glad we did not miss this!
posted by anathema at 6:22 PM on November 18, 2001

Mason (11 miles south of Lansing), Michigan.

The fog was extraordinarily thick last night, so (based on a homebrewed instant weather analysis) three of us headed Thumb-ward in search of meteors.

We found them. (The story of our adventure)
posted by iceberg273 at 6:32 PM on November 18, 2001

Oh just shoot me now for the missing </A>.
posted by kfury at 7:07 PM on November 18, 2001

In the mountains outside of Santa Barbara, California there were about 5,000 people partying at a place called Napps Castle. The road to the castle had become a parking lot with cars stopped in the middle of the road. I couldn't make it to the ruins of the castle so I hiked up to a vantage point were I could hear the drumming and singing and have a complete 360 view of the shower. It was incredible, a once in a lifetime experience. I have not seen this many colors light up the night sky.
posted by MaddCutty at 9:39 PM on November 18, 2001

"I feel very alive right now."

Rio, you cut to the heart of the matter!

I totally envy your location, by the way.
posted by y2karl at 9:57 PM on November 18, 2001

Clear sky over northeast Tokyo last night. Saw two huge shooting stars. Really beautiful.
posted by Bixby23 at 10:39 PM on November 18, 2001

Eugene OR, stumbled out of bed at 1:30 am, ready to drive out to the country. . .thick cloud cover. . .partly disappointed, partly relieved, I stumbled back into the warm bed next to my warm wife. . .
posted by Danf at 8:13 AM on November 19, 2001

Miami FL: My wife and I were up late, something that happens VERY rarely around here. We had just gotten back from the Tobacco Road blues festival (which was excellent!) and crawled up on the roof of our house with a sleeping bag at around 3:30. Nearly freezing in the 63 degree (heh-heh) night, we laid on our backs and waited for the show. Not much at first but soon got some action. Several passed straight overhead, some thru Orion's belt, complete with tracers. Saw about 12 over a 30 minute period. Many thanks to the person that posted info about this last week.
posted by groundhog at 9:13 AM on November 19, 2001

It was the best night of meteors I have ever seen.

North central Minnesota (near Hinckley), perfect clear sky conditions, and unseasonably warm (mid 40s). Spent the night outside in a sleeping bag, dozing, woke at 2:45, with blazing meteors everywhere. Saw upwards of 500 to 1000 over course of several hours, well into dawn. Three distinct "explosive" meteors, including one which left a contrail which floated away on the wind for several minutes afterward. Many meteor trails covered more than 45 degrees of the sky. Multiple simultaneous flashes, in every part of the sky. Woke my wife, kids, sister, nieces, and several cousins (where we were staying), and we watched for hours. I don't think my children will forget this.

I felt like I was lifting off the earth--after two hours of watching the Leonids, I felt drawn to the sky. Amazing.

Hands down the best meteor shower I have ever seen.
posted by mooncrow at 10:33 AM on November 19, 2001

We drove up to Lake Geneva, WI to watch the shower. Fog rolled in across the lake at around 10 or so, so we ditched my original plan of renting a boat and drove up Highway 50 to the first open fog-free field we could find and plunked down a couple lawn chairs. Cozy blankets, funny hats, Nick Drake.

There was a bit of cloud cover and a little more light pollution than we would have liked, but we could still see the bigger meteors just fine. Streaks came every five to ten minutes, and most had extremely long glittery trails that hung in the sky for a couple seconds. Just when we decided to wrap it up around 3:30 CST, one massive meteor rocketed overhead, arcing all the way across the sky and flaring up at the end in a huge flash. Then, while bundling up our stuff to head home, I proposed to my girlfriend, and she said yes.

So yeah, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
posted by eamondaly at 12:12 PM on November 19, 2001

just because i think it is a good story and i'm rather proud of myself:

went to bar in SF to see my current favorite band. met a girl there and she offered to give me a ride home. but, we had to take a cab to get her car. when we got out of the cab(approx. 2:15am PST) we were talking and walking towards her car and i saw a shooting star. POW! i remembered the shower and gave her the explanation. she thought it was great idea so we drove her convertible(fortuitous, eh?) to the Marin Headlands and parked in the dark with about 30 other cars. a magnificent show to say the least, at least 200-300 stars over the course of 2-3 hours. ended up staying there until 5:30am we were the last car in the lot when we left and i could still watch a star every 5-10 minutes. in a word, breathtaking. sorry to those that didn't have the same experience.
posted by donkeysuck at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2001

I really like this thread - some great stories!
posted by kokogiak at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2001

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