A Lion in Whimper

Viewers throughout the greater New York area got up early Tuesday morning, November 18, hoping to see a repeat of last year’s Leonid meteor storm, but this was not to happen. A nearly full Moon and high clouds interfered, but even if conditions had been perfect, it would have been a pale shadow of last year’s display. The shower was best right before morning twilight, with several observers reporting a brief burst at around 5:37 a.m. in which a half-dozen or so meteors came in quick succession. Otherwise, few people in the Northeastern U.S. reported seeing more than 10-20 meteors an hour, and many saw less. Western observers got a better show, some reporting several hundred meteors an hour, but it was still not the equal of the 2001 spectacle.

I viewed the Leonids from upstate; conditions were poor, with the limiting magnitude about 2. I watched from 4:00 to 4:30, and again from 5:00 to 5:55. I saw nothing at all except a couple of marginal meteors until 5:35, and then about five meteors in the last 20 minutes, with none particularly bright. Although the 2002 Leonids were disappointing, after three days of snow and rain and rather dire forecasts until Monday, I was a little surprised to get anything resembling a clear sky, and I have the memories of last year's storm to tide me over.

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