The night of the Leonid shower 2001 was amazing in many ways. This “Oohs and Aahs” version was originally written for The Ecliptic. (the old LAS newsletter that was published for over 30 years)
First, I was able to find all the layers of clothing I needed to keep warm. This included taking my husband’s knit skull cap, one of his sweat shirts, and gloves. (I couldn’t find my own gloves or hat.)
Next, Sarah, my daughter, came along to the observatory. The thought that she would willingly spend a whole night outdoors away from her nice warm bed was amazing. She also convinced two of her friends to come up to Fleetville too.
Even though we arrived close to 10:00 PM, many club members were already there. I still drove to the back of the college’s compound with my parking lights on. You don’t want me driving with my lights off, believe me. We brought our lounge chairs from the front porch. They were cushioned
and sturdy. A few members had those adjustable chairs that fold in thirds and through the night you could hear thuds as their heads hit the ground, which might explain their additional counts of meteors.
Sarah chose to sleep in the car until it got more exciting. When her friends arrived, we directed them to the back seat of the car. I can remember thinking the headline would read “Unfeeling Mother Lets Daughter Freeze to Death While She Watches Leonids.” They immediately adjourned to the classroom to warm up and weren’t seen for at least one hour.
John Sabia started yelling out his count. Everyone tried to get their sightings added in to his count, but this was his own personal count. Some meteors were spectacular and some left dust trails. Dave Barrett brought a night scope with him. It was really amazing to look at the dust trails
While I was out in the field, Tom Cupillari walked out with the cellphone with a call for me. It was 2:30AM and I couldn’t imagine who it was. Who would be up at that hour that wasn’t already up at the observatory? It was Vince, my husband. He pictured just Jo-Ann, Joe, Sarah and me out in the field, so he was calling to see how things were going. I told him to get up here ASAP, and amazingly he did come up. When he got here, he was complaining that he could find his skull cap, his gloves or his one sweat shirt. I had to confess that I had taken them.
As the counts increased each hour, the Leonids delivered all they were supposed. The club members were not disappointed. By 5:00 AM I stopped counting. The meteors were coming down like rain. If you just did a slow spin around, you could see meteors in all directions. By 6:30AM it was getting daylight, so my group left. Other members stayed. I went to bed as soon as I walked in the door and was able to fall asleep. Another way the night was amazing.