On the weekend of November 17-18, Andrew, Lorraine and Markus went to camp out on the summit of Noonmark Mountain in the Adirondacks. The occasion was the Leonid Meteor Shower, which was to peak around 5AM on Sunday with an unusually intense display.

On the drive down, we detoured to hit a geocache.

The mirror-smooth surface of this lake (Barnum Pond) gives us hope for a calm night on top of the mountain.

We start the hike up a bit on the late side. It will be almost completely dark when we arrive on the summit to make camp.

We get up at 2:30am to watch the shooting stars. It is quite a mild environment for a mountaintop in November, but even so there is a breeze and the temperature is about -3° C. Here is Lorraine, very well wrapped up against the cold: It works, after she gets bored with the meteors she goes to sleep right out in the open, whereas I (Markus) have to move around now and then to get some warmth back.

The meteor shower does not disappoint. At its peak around 5am, the predicted rate of about 1 meteor per second is likely met, though of course you can't see them all when you're only looking at one part of the sky. At any rate we count for a while to over 200, and average about one every six seconds.

The meteors are bits of space debris from a cloud of such matter that our planet is punching through on its journey around the sun. What looks like a horizontal streak is in fact coming almost straight down - the atmosphere is so thin that on a normal desktop sized globe, it would only be a few millimetres thick, so what we are seeing is only those meteors that hit the earth in our immediate vicinity. The planet is travelling in the direction of the constellation Leo, so any debris encountered "dead ahead" will not cause a streak, just a flash in this constellation, as it burns up coming straight toward you. Anything else will streak away from this point. Sometimes several meteors arrive within a second or two, all going in different directions, then this effect becomes very apparent.

There is no way to photograph any of this with a digital camera. The show continues even as dawn breaks. A bright meteor against a blue morning sky looks very nice.

As a morning person, I love the pre-dawn.

The GPS receiver has predicted sunrise to the second, so I am ready with the camera.

These two ladies drove up from Albany NY and hiked up the mountain in the night, to watch the show.

On the way down, just below the summit, I plant a geocache of my own. You can see the details here.

Noonmark Mountain is visible behind us as we drive up the valley. I thought perhaps it is named so because it "marks the noon" as seen from here, but this would only be true for daylight saving time - the sun is already well past it (note the camera is still set to daylight saving time, whoops).

And after hiking Noonmark Mountain, what better place to eat than the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley!

Markus's Home Page