Landon Noll looking up Fremont Peak Observatory 0.8m telescope Leonid 2001 meteor squall count at Fremont Peak

Leonid 2001 meteor shower / squall / storm at Fremont Peak

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Introduction

The 2001 Leonid shower, dust from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, was a truly a remarkable event. Perhaps the best since the great storm of 1966.

While some call the 2001 Leonids a great shower, others call it a storm. Perhaps the term Leonid squall is in order?

Conditions at Fremont Peak

Observing conditions were outstanding at Fremont Peak. The limiting magnitude was between 6.7 and 7.0. Many faint stars within Orion could be directly seen. Many experienced observers reported directly seeing more of their reference brightness stars than ever before.

Somewhat after the peak we noticed a faint sky glow near the horizon. The glow was uniform in all directions, for about 10 to 15 degrees dec. The glow was in stark contrast to the very dark zenith. Perhaps this glow was due to light scattering off of the excess dust in the upper atmosphere from the many meteor strikes?

General Impressions

In short, the even was absolutely astounding! Numerous fireballs, some exploding Leonid meteors were seen during the peak of the shower. The peak period (1000 - 1130 UTC) definitely came in clumps. Even at its height, one would see a pause of 2-3 seconds followed by a burst of 3-5 meteors. There were lots of slow bright burning meteors with long streams from the Leo radiant.

What did it look like? Here is an image was taken by Kazuyuki Tanaka in Japan on 19 Nov 2001 (as shown in Sky & Telescope's News section):

2001 Leonid shower photo icon

Scenes like that were common at Fremont Peak! At times during the peak, there were busts where this many meteors could be seen at one time radiating from the the Constellation Leo.

Meteor Counts

The following table shows the meteor counts as compiled by Landon Curt Noll:

Fremont Peak 2001 Leonid count
PST Time UTC Time Count Count/hour
0000-0015 0800-0815 23 92
0015-0030 0815-0830 35 140
0030-0045 0830-0845 38 152
0045-0100 0845-0900 52 208
0100-0115 0900-0915 38 152
0115-0130 0915-0930 83 332
0130-0145 0930-0945 87 348
0145-0200 0945-1000 170 680
0200-0215 1000-1015 230 920
0215-0230 1015-1030 308 1232
0230-0245 1030-1045 329 1316
0245-0300 1045-1100 407 1628
0300-0315 1100-1115 602 2408
0315-0330 1115-1130 310 1240
0330-0345 1130-1145 208 832
0345-0400 1145-1200 186 744
0400-0415 1200-1215 156 624
0415-0430 1215-1230 122 488
0430-0445 1230-1245 180 720

The following graph:

1998 shower photo icon

(click to enlarge)

compares well with the Mt. Lemmon Observing Facility results as well as the predictions published in Sky and Telescope.

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