The Leonid Project

January 8th, 2011

On the night of November 17-18, 1999, the Leonid meteor shower produced an outburst -- a very intense burst of meteors lasting about an hour or two. This outburst had been predicted and Dr. Peter Jenniskens of NASA organized a big airborne research mission to collect data on the outburst. I was one of many people involved in that project. The basic tale of what happened and why is presented here. After the mission was over, I made an attempt to analyze the videotapes that had been collected during that period. That attempt failed due to horrid technical problems with the Macintosh operating system; you can read the wild and crazy story of my attempts to cope here. I made another attempt to gather data in 2001, when there was a second, much smaller outburst. This attempt also failed; you can read the sad tale here.

Back in my undergraduate days, I made an attempt to gather data on the Geminid meteor shower of 1972; that attempt is certainly entertaining. Here’s the story.

In November of 2010 I resolved to make a new attempt to analyze the data; I have just now begun writing a diary of my efforts so as to organize my thoughts and, while I’m at it, show the reader just how messy some scientific work can get.

Here is an index of the pages in this section, in a rough temporal order:

My first effort with the 1972 Geminids
The 1999 Leonid MAC Airborne mission
My first attempt at analyzing the video
The 2001 Leonid effort
My 2010-2011 analysis diary
An explanation of fine structure in meteor showers
An analysis of streamer motion in meteor showers
Final conclusions of the 2011 analysis