Leonids 1999: Observational Results!

The DMS Leonid Expedition 1999 in Spain

Team "València"

1. Locations
2. Impressions
3. Images
4. Flooding November 12 & 13

(Last updated: 1-1-2000)

Geographical coordinates of location Xaló

Latitude: 38° 43´ 37´´ N

Longitude: 0° 01´ 30´´ E (!)

Geographical coordinates of location Dos Aguas

Latitude: 39° 18´ 44´´ N

Longitude: 0° 42´ 17´´ W (!)

1999 DMS Leonid expedition to Spain
Marco Langbroek

(NOTE: basic brief SUMMARY account of facts given in section marked
**********, followed by longer narrative)

Dear All,

We (Marc de Lignie, Casper ter Kuile, Koen Miskotte, Carl Johannink, Elisabeth Middelhoff and me) just returned from our Leonid expedition and want to share a first impression of the incredible meteor display of November 18 (more details (data) will be communicated later). We had to travel 600 km south by car, into Spain, from our initial location near Perpignan in SW France on the day of November 17 because of the weather. But it was worth it!

At the small village of Xaló, some 80 km south of Valencia, we observed the most impressive meteor display I ever experienced, under a completely clear sky. Near 2:00-2:30 UT (Nov. 18), Leonids appeared at an average rate of some 30-40 per minute, equivalent (very roughly) to a Zenith Hourly Rate in the order of 4000, given that the radiant was still not too high in the sky. I suggest this apparition certainly may be called a true 'storm'. Bright Leonids were conspicuously lacking given the level of activity (see below).

Due to the Poisson-distribution of meteor rates, we experienced small bursts in which sometimes 5-6 Leonids appeared at one instance, shooting away in all directions. The sight was astonishing, and we actually had a hard time keeping up with counting; this really was at the limit of our coping abilities.

Just as Hans Betlem reported for his group (which operated separately from us), the first hour after rise of the radiant saw little activity. But then rates boomed spectacularly in a mere 1,5 hours. As rates went up, we first dropped formal classification procedures and only recorded meteors by briefly stating their brightness; then we had to stop this too and started to just indicate a meteor appearance by speaking a short 'yes!' into the recorder. It became quite surrealistic, this nightly scene of 4 observers simultaniously firing a staccato 'yes, yes, yes-yes, yes, yes-yes-yes!' into their recorders.
It was amazing, meteors appeared everywhere in the sky in rapid succesion, and each few minutes I had to take a short break in counting to 'regain my breath' a little bit. Marvelous! All of us have never been so excited.

One thing that struck us all, was the complete lack of bright Leonids, especially given the high activity level. We did not see any Leonids brighter than -3 to -4, and those only in minute quantities. It reminds me of the 1995 alfa Monocerotids where a similar phenomenon was apparent (see our paper in Astrophysical Journal 479 (1997), 441-447). Yes, this is contra the statement in Hans' mail, but Hans' impression from the video record seems to neglect that a bright video meteor is not a bright visual/photographic meteor, as he pointed out himself at the last DMS meeting.

We have operated a multi-station photographic and video network this night, with a second station some 80 km North of us operated by Robert Haas, Jos Nijland, Romke Schievink, Arnold Tukkers and Rita verhoef. Both stations operated automated platforms with 25 photo-camera's providing coverage of the full sky above 15 degrees altitude, as well as image intensified video cameras. The goal; to obtain accurate orbits of Leonid meteoroids, just as we did in 1995, 1997 and 1998. We expect to have obtained a large number of high accuracy orbits of Leonid meteoroids during the storm with our double station team.

At the end of the night, we all were exhausted; physically and mentally. I personally certainly did experience some effect on my consciousness and functioning; during the peak, my recorder suddenly jammed, causing an unrestrained reaction of panic with me. It took me several minutes just to have my brain realize that it was just a matter of a full tape that had to be replaced. Under these conditions, you just can't think straight anymore, it seems.... These impressive phenomenon really get on you!

Out of a range of celestial phenomenon I've experienced that includes other impressive meteor displays (e.g. 1995 alpha Monocerotids; the 1998 Leonid fireball component from central China), aurora and bright comets, the only thing that in my opinion can match this meteor storm in impressiveness, is a total solar eclipse. Forget about Hale-Bopp etcetera; for me, THIS was THE celestial event of the nineties!


- Marco Langbroek
Dutch Meteor Society (DMS)

Images of team València in Spain

Our search near Perpignan, France to find a suitable observing location. We found a nice place near the St. Luc chapel about 11 kilometers west of Laroque.

The St. Luc chapel. In the background at left is the famous mountain "Pic du Canigou" packed by snow during our stay in Laroque des Alberes. This beatifull mountain is very well visible from a wide area near Perpignan.

The village of Laroque des Alberes on the northern hills of the Pyrenees

The french gite situated on the central hill of Laroque des Alberes. The roof was intended as location for the visual observers, the grassland in front for the photographic observers

This is the now famous observing site near the little Spanish village Xaló located between Valencia and Alicante. We used the concrete pallets in front to locate all our photographic and video-equipment on. The visual observers located themselves about 100 meters along the unpaved road.

On this picture the observers of team Xaló pose for the groupphoto. From left to right are: Carl Johannink, Elisabeth Middelhoff, Marco Langbroek, Koen Miskotte, Marc de Lignie and Casper ter Kuile. Photo by Carl Johannink.

We used our spare days to have a look at the beatifull French countryside. Here we are at the viewpount near the rocks of Orgues. From left to right are: Marco Langbroek, Koen Miskotte, Carl Johannink, Marc de Lignie and Elisabeth Middelhoff

View on the rocks at Orgues.

Carl Johannink and Elisabeth Middelhoff having a rest during the trip around the rocks at Orgues.

Images of station Dos Aguas

As you see our DMS teammember Jos Nijland is world famous! The French set-up a statue for him!

Romke and Rita are looking for ships along the coast. Rita serves as unipod for the telescope.

The French gite in Thezan des Corbieres situated near Narbonne in the Aude Province

Romke with his videocamera

Rita Verhoef with the well-known DMS expedition sweater

View on Carcasonne

Another view on Carcasonne. Note the deepblue sky!

Remainders of the flooding which struck the area on November 12 and 13.

Flooding Roussillon area on November 12 & 13

Disaster flooding in France on November 12 & 13 (KNMI-the Netherlands)

Disaster flooding in France on November 12 & 13 (Meteo France)

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back.gif This page was last modified on January 1, 2000 by
Marco Langbroek and Carl Johannink and Casper ter Kuile