Leonid Meteor ...er...Sprinkle!

by Jerry Elmer

I arrived a Coe at 8pm and there were two people with scopes set up in the parking lot. They both bailed early because of the cloudy sky, with Craig staying until about 11:50. As in Murphy's law for astronomers (and in the words of the immortal Dave Barry, "I swear, I'm not making this up!!"), as soon as he drove down the hill, three of the best meteors of the night came within two minutes of each other. The first one I actually missed, but it left a trail about 90 degrees across the sky starting just above the hill NNW of the parking lot, right where the bottom two stars of the bowl of Ursa Major were rising. It continued westward at a low trajectory until it disappeared in the clouds over SJ, and remained for about 20 minutes. I thought, at first, it might be a contrail, but it appeared while I was putting my bino's in the car, too fast for a jet, and the entire trail across the sky was uniform width and expanded uniformly over time. Two others appeared shortly there! after which I did see. They went parallel to the first, and about 1/4 the length, very bright.

About 2am, when the moon started rising, the entire sky clouded over leaving only the brightest stars visible through the haze. By the time the moon broke over the hill the sky was pretty much ruined, so I opted to leave about 2:45.

Most of the night the clouds came and went, with the western area over SJ and Morgan Hill obscured all the time I was there. The eastern area stayed mostly clear all night. In all, from 8pm to 2:45am, I saw 26 meteors. Not exactly a shower. More like a slow drip. However, all of the ones I did see were very bright, and a couple of them exploded into pieces. Hope next year is better.

On the way home, I saw a red fox in the road just before the cattle guard, and two gray foxes at the beginning of the iron bridge over the reservoir. They thought it was a lousy meteor shower, too.