Leonids 1999: Observational Results!

The DMS Leonid Expedition 1999 in Spain

Team "Valdepeņas"

1. Locations
2. Impressions
3. Images

(Last updated: 99-12-15)

Geographical coordinates of location Casa Nueva (Villarobledo)

Latitude: 39° 07´ 31´´ N

Longitude: 2° 43´ 05´´ W

Geographical coordinates of location Punto Alto (Montizon)

Latitude: 38° 22´ 50´´ N

Longitude: 3° 01´ 52´´ W

1999 DMS Leonid expedition to Spain
Hans Betlem


The DMS Leonid 1999 expedition to Spain has been a great success.
Although the weather conditions in several parts of Spain were tricky we were able to find fine locations without being hampered by clouds.
With two campers, packed with equipment and 7 observers we settled near to Villarobledo, about 200 km south of Madrid on sunday, november 14.
On monday, november 15 the second station was erected near to Montizon in Northern Andalusia on a distance of 89 km south, azimuth 19 degrees and before evening twilight both stations were installed and ready for the night.


Station Casa Nueva (Villarobledo):

  1. 14 cameras Canon T-70 with lenses f/1.8-50 mm Canon FD
  2. European Network fish-eye camera Distagon f/3.5-35 mm
  3. Image intensified video

Station Punto Alto (Montizon):

  1. 23 cameras Canon T-70 with lenses f/1.8-50 mm Canon FD
  2. European Network fish-eye camera Distagon f/3.5-35 mm
  3. Image intensified video
  4. Image intensified video all-sky to derive timings of photographed meteors
  5. Spectrograph Zeiss f/4.5-160 mm with blazed grating 465 lines/mm

Both stations had portable electricity generators available and the campers provided good lodging during the observing period.

Night November 16/17

I little panic occurred at the Punto Alto station when the sky got completely overcast around 21h local time (20h UT). It turned out to be a local effect from nearby mountains as the rest of Spain was completely clear as the downloaded Meteosat and NOAA images showed us. The clouds disappeared within the next two hours.
Photographic, video and visual observations started at 22h UT at both stations. Photographic exposure time was scheduled until 6h UT next morning.
The Leonid rates however were still low this night. Althoud Leonids were seen the hourly rates were not high. No computations have been made up till now (sunday, november 21) but sporadics and specially Taurids gave a better show. Nevertheless we expect several tens of Leonids on film for both stations during this night.

Night November 17/18

Equipment was again installed during daylight and as both stations were settled all observers could take some rest today. There were no special feelings nor any excitement although everybody knew that something extraordinary was expected.
Now station Casa Nueava had to cope with some clouds in the evening (and a visit of the Guardia Civil the same time...) but again all problems were over before the moon set. Again photographic patrol was scheduled until 6h UT. (7h local time)
We all remembered the fine show of earth grazing fireballs in China the year before but when we saw the head of Leo rising in the bright moonlight nothing showed up. Even with a radiant altitude of ten degrees no Leonids were seen... Whatever the situation might be, no great show was going on.
After the moon had set and we were able to observe in (again) a dark clear sky Leonids started to appear. Their numbers increased dramatically within the next few hours and soon it became clear to us that a great show was in progress. Leonids appeared everywhere in the sky and around 1.40 UT it was impossible to estimate all magnitudes any more and we changed to counting. Between 1h50m and 2h20m UT the highest counts were made. The tapes are still analysed but the highest counts appear around 1h55m UT, 2h10m UT and 2h20m UT.
Rough minute counts will be presented later the coming days. During the peak of the storm about 35 Leonids per minute were counted per observer. Definitive corrections still have to be made but with a radiant altitude of about 30 degress corrected hourly rates may be between 4500 and 5000. A Leonid storm indeed!
The all-sky video showed many, many bright meteors on the screen (in fact almost every second a Leonid of magnitude +1 or better was visible somewhere in the sky!) which means that hundreds of Leonids have been photographed by both stations during the outburst period.
Also later in the night the Leonid rates stayed high and numerous bright events were photographed. At 7h local time (6h UT) all observations were ended and we celebrated the show and the ending of communism in the Czech Republic exactly ten years ago with our Czech colleage. Sangria....

Night November 18/19

No clouds at all this night but a lot of moonlight until 2h UT. Again all photographic observations started at 22h UT. Observers took some rest in the campers until the moon had set. Observations were done from 2h to 5h UT when the Villarobledo station reported clouds coming in so the last hour of this night was missed for double station work. The Leonids still gave a fine show and several bright Leonids were seen. The brightest was a -6 Leonid, exploding in Orion with a 6 minute train. Also this night will yield fine photographic records.
On friday, november 19 the teams met again and exchanged experiences and congratulations. Not only we were able to cover all three planned nights but we got the show on the right time and on the right place! Although an expedition like this is always a little risky for equipment all worked fine. No problems with equipment were reported and the test images with the all-sky cameras which were made during the night 15/16 showed fine sharp star trails. On friday afternoon the two teams drive to Madrid together and settled near the camper rental company. Unloading and packing started in the early evening.
On saturday the cargo was packed again for transport to the Netherlands, the campers were returned and the Czech team started their 2700 km journey home. The Dutch team arrived at Schiphol airport in the early evening, the valuable video tapes and exposed films in their luggage. More details (minute counts, first photograpic records) can be found on the DMS website later this week.


  1. Casa Nueva: Guus Docters van Leeuwen, Pavel Spurny, Pavel Trepka
  2. Punto Alto: Hans Betlem, Annemarie Zoete, Michelle van Rossum, Ales Kolar


The expedition has been made possible by many.
Financial support was given by:

  1. NASA-Ames
  2. the Dutch Physics Foundation
  3. the Dutch Kerkhoven Bosschafund
Operational support was given by:
  1. Honda Motor equipment Netherlands provided power generators at a generous discount.
  2. Autocaravan Express Madrid provided the campers.
  3. All cargo was transported by U-Freight cargo comp. at Schiphol, the Netherlands.

Leiden, november 21, 1999
Hans Betlem

Images of team Valdepeņas in Spain

Hans Betlem explaining an array of camera's as used by DMS

Hans Betlem

Pavel Spurny

Equipment of station Punto Alto in the evening of november 17.
Waiting for the storm....

After a succesfull campaign the last group photo was taken near to Autocaravan Express, Madrid, Spain.

Station Casa Nueva during installation.

Equipment in the U-Freight cargo

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back.gif This page was last modified on December 15, 1999 by
Hans Betlem and Guus Docters van Leeuwen and Casper ter Kuile