(meteorobs) Observation Report - Australia

After being clouded out last year, this year I decided to drive north from
Melbourne Victoria ( Lat -37.817  Long 144.967)  to a spot high in the Snowy
Mountains of New South Wales miles from any towns, and thoretically a good
dark sky site (I wished anyway!)

10am Tues 16th Nov we set off on the 700Km drive up the east coast of
Australia, and headed inland up into the mountains to Adaminaby (Lat -36.050
Long 148.717). The further we climbed the cloudier it got (Oh no!). Having
pre booked a motel for 4 nights I was hoping to see some serious action this
year BUT when the time came (17th Nov 99 1am - 5am local time - 16 Nov 14:00
to 18:00 UT) we had 100% cloud cover.

16/17 Leonid Count = 0

Whilst sitting out in the middle of nowhere (car heater blasting) I decided
to quit the motel and drive West out into the dead flat wheat belt - and
just keep driving until there were no clouds, which is what we did, and
ended up 500Km West near Griffith NSW (Lat -34.283  Long 146.033).  We found
a suitable spot down a narrow dirt track and set up the ETX-90EC and
Camera/Tripod with a 28mm lens. As it was getting dark, a farmer in the
field next to us decided he was going to plough all night and blasted us
with his tractor spotlights. 5 minutes later we were packed up and looking
for another spot. Following our noses, we headed down another narrow dirt
road, past a farmhouse, when suddenly the 'road' was about 10 lanes WIDE.
Marisa (my other half) said 'are you sure this isn't an Airport?' - I said
nah - no way... We stopped (just to be sure) and a few minutes later were
pounced upon by farmer Joshua in his 4x4. Before he had a chance to throw us
off, I asked him if this was a public or private road? He responded with
Road? This is my private airstrip - used by the crop-dusters! Hmmm.

I asked him if it was OK to stay, and would he be interested in looking at
Jupiter / Saturn etc through a telescope? That was the clincher - he didn't
'know' that the bright star in the sky was a planet! But then again - most
other people don't seem to know either, so it was no surprise. I set the
ETX-90EC up with a 250x eyepiece and let him spend an hour looking at
Jupiter, Saturn, Great Orion Nebula, Tucanae47, Moon Craters and Mars. He
was ecstatic - He had never seen anything ever before. While I was pointing
out some of the names of some stars, a HUGE fireball appeared going east to
west slightly north of Canopus... And to top it off he saw a satellite
through the eyepiece while he was looking at Saturn - talk about beginners
luck! He left us to it, and we settled in for a 5 hour wait. I only managed
to see 3 meteors I could attribute as Leonids, however we did notice about 6
bollides? (I think that's the correct term - meteors that simply popped like
a flashlight going off?). Weather - 100% CLEAR (at last!)

17/18 Leonid Count = 3?. Sporadics = 13

5am we headed off home 450Km south, and I finally managed to get a few hours
sleep. I decided I would go out again, but this time only 50Km East of
Melbourne. I  went to a known good dark sky site (Olinda - Lat -37.850  Long
145.367) with a clear view into the North East, arriving at 3am 19 Nov local
time ( 16:00 18 Nov UT) - I set up the camera and within 15 minutes was
rewarded with a HUGE but feint Leonid about 30 deg above the Northerly
horizon. This metor must have travelled across at least 50% of the sky!
(Guess who didn't have the camera pointed in that direction! :-)

I saw 9 Leonids between 3am and 4am, and 17 between 4am and 5am. Almost all
of them were fairly feint. One however was estimated as Mag -4 near Orion
which exploded as it finished it's trail across about 30% of the sky
(looking North, up at about 60 deg). Hopefully I got this baby on film!
(This is the first time I've ever tried photography of this kind). Weather -
100% clear.

18/19 Leonid Count = 26. Sporadics - not counted.

Thinking there may be just enough dust lying out there in space I went out
the next night as well, however only managed to see 2 feint Leonids between
3am and 5am.

19/20 Leonid Count = 2. Satellites = 12 (Including that 'ball' thing with
all the mirrors on it!)

This being my first 'true' Leonid experience (last year I was clouded out) I
must say that even though there were only a few meteors seen it was still
worth the experience. Next year I'll have a wider angle lens for the camera
(28mm simply did not cover enough sky) plus I'll have it mounted piggy-back
on to the telescope so I can at least 'track' the stars.

All I need to do now is figure out how to get the film processed correctly !

Greg Hudson.

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