The 1999 Leonid Meteor Storm
18 November 1999

On the night of November 17th we went to sleep at a pretty decent hour and set the alarm for 1 am... When I woke up I looked out a Northern Window and a Northeastern window It was snowing. I had to make a decision, go out in the snow for the event I have waited almost 3 decades for, or get back in to that very warm, soft bed. So we went back to sleep for an hour.

At 2:20am it was still snowing, but we managed to collect ourselves and head outside. We put on every piece of clothing we have in our packs and our heavy winter coats and some blankets the family had given us. I walked outside and looked around. Snow. Grumpily we started to climb the steps to the field above the house. When Cheryln turned out the porch light I saw MILLIONS OF STARS! The sky was clear except just one cloud on the east! Damn, we should've gone out an hour earlier. The peak was predicted for 3am.

The Leonids are an annual meteor shower which in a normal year yields nothing, but every 33 years are spectacular. The 1966 storm was over 100,000 meteors per hour!!! That's hundreds in the sky at every second! And in 1833 it was 250,000 per hour! It only lasts for an hour, so you have to be in the right place, and this year, that was Europe.

We laid down on the hillside and covered up with the blanket... it was actually quite cozy! Soon after we lay down it clouded up again and started to snow lightly... the snow on our face made us itch!!! We waited it out. Occasionally we saw something so bright that it was visible through the clouds... that was amazing. Leonid meteor shower At around 3:45 the clouds parted and we had mostly clear skies for the next 2 hours. We saw a lot of meteors, maybe 400 per hour, many very bright (and even more behind the clouds! WOW!)... It wasn't the storm I had hoped for, but it was a spectacular experience and I was very happy. I later found out that the peak, at 3am was about 1000 per hour, in the middle east, so we were right in there with the best... reports said that NO place in Europe saw it because of the clouds... but because we were persistent, we did.

When we returned to the house after 5am (when the lights at the nearby farms began to turn on) the family was waking up and gave us hot chocolate (something they had learned that we really liked!). Then of course we went back to bed for several hours.

© Copyright Mark Canizaro 2000

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