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ESA scientists capture the Lion's offspring down under (continued)

Question: It sounds as if your observations were successful.

André Knöfel and Roland Trautner preparing the spectrograph camera at nightfall.

Koschny: We captured many meteors and fireballs on video - probably several thousand in total, though we won't know the actual numbers until we analyse our tapes. At one point I saw five meteors within one second. My impression was that the activity was fairly constant for about three hours. It was definitely less activity than the 1999 Leonids that we had observed from Spain. There didn't really seem to be a significant peak, but this may be because of the observing geometry. We saw a bright fireball every minute at first, when the radiant (the apparent source of the Leonids) was low above the horizon. Later, as the radiant rose higher in the sky, we could see a lot more, fainter meteors.

Our visual observations were reported via satellite phone to Vladimir Krumov from the International Meteor Organisation, who kindly acted as the coordinator. We obtained about 200 hours of video data from five intensified video cameras. Two of the cameras were equipped with objective gratings, so we were able to successfully record meteor spectra showing both emission and absorption lines, and we can now start to analyse the chemistry of these meteors.

The electric field sensor.

We also got some nice recordings from the electric field sensor that was measuring the electric field of the atmosphere. The signal was converted to the audio range and recorded on the video tape of our wide angle camera. Although the camera shows about 200 meteors brighter than +1 mag, so far we have not found (heard) any obvious correlation between the electric field and a meteor. We will be analysing the data in detail over the coming weeks to see if we can find any evidence of this.

Trautner: We suffered from high temperatures - above 40°C every day. This increased the electric current consumption of the MI probe electronics and blew the fuses. Another problem we encountered was the power supply for our equipment. Fortunately, we were able to recharge our batteries during the day using a solar panel and by linking up to our car batteries and generators. The solar array was very useful - it would have been a disaster if the car batteries had run dry!

After a number of MI probe test runs, the display on the laptop controlling the probe died, so that brought my tests to a sudden end. However, I had run sufficient tests before that to get plenty of useful data. It will be very valuable for assessing the performance of the new instrument architecture.




© ESA Science 2001.