Leonids 2001
by John Pane

I took these photographs during the Leonids meteor storm on Sunday, November 18, 2001, from Laurel Mountain State Park near Ligonier, PA, USA. Immediately after returning home, I wrote a short description of the experience I had that foggy night in Western Pennsylvania.

I did not use a telescope or telephoto lens. The photos were taken with an ordinary 35mm SLR camera mounted on a tripod, with a "normal" 50mm f/1.4 lens. I used two Kodak films: PJM 640 and TMZ 3200. I did not keep accurate records of exposure lengths. They ranged from ten seconds to two minutes.

If these images appear too bright on your computer screen, darker versions are available.

Copyright © 2001 John Pane. All rights reserved.

See below for terms of use.

Meteor and Trail from Series One

The first two photographs in Series One (below) show a meteor and its immediate aftermath. This composite image combines the two photos, as if I had just taken a single photograph for the duration of the two photos.

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Series One

This series of six photographs were taken over a span of ten or fifteen minutes, around 5:40am ET. The meteor shown here was one of the brightest I saw that night, and I was very lucky to have it appear right in the middle of my photograph. The bowl of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) is just to the left of the meteor.

Click the images to view enlargements.

This meteor left behind a glowing trail that was visible for more than ten minutes as it was re-shaped by the air currents in the upper atmosphere. The rest of the pictures show the trail's evolution as it expanded and moved down towards the horizon. By the time I took the sixth photograph in this series, the trail was twice as long as the original image of the meteor itself, and spanned almost the entire horizontal field of view of the camera. 17 shots (and a film change) after the meteor, I was no longer aware of the trail but it was still being picked up by the high speed black & white film.

Although they are less spectacular, there are at least seven other meteors visible in this series of photos.

Meteor Trail Detail from Series One

Series Two

This set of three photographs also begins with a bright meteor in the first image and its trail in subsequent frames.

In the second photo, I count five meteors (one is barely in the frame, next to another meteor at the bottom center). The disjoint trail in the upper left is from a single meteor that dimmed and brightened again. There's also a horizontal trail from an artificial satellite across the upper right portion of that photo.

These pictures were taken shortly before the first series. The three brightest stars near the meteor form the handle of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major). The bowl of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) is at the left edge of the scene.

Click the images to view enlargements.

Copyright © 2001 John Pane. All rights reserved.

Permission is granted for limited non-commercial use of these images. If you use them, please credit me and notify me. If circumstances permit, please include the URL for this page: http://leonids.johnpane.com. I would appreciate a copy of any publication. High-resolution digital images and prints are available. Please contact me.

Please send requests and comments to [email protected].

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