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Shooting the Leonids

The campaign to observe the Leonid shower will take place between 15 and 19 November. In order to obtain stereo images of the Leonids, the team will set up two observation sites separated by 50 km.

At each location, the team will continually monitor the incoming Leonids with two image-intensified video cameras. A fifth, wide angle, video camera will obtain an 80 degree 'fish eye' view of the night sky.

"The primary objective of our campaign is to count the meteor trails and measure their brightness," said Koschny. "With the 'normal' cameras, we can record many more meteors than are visible to the naked eye."

"This will eventually enable us to calculate the changing numbers of meteors over the five-day observing period," he said. "We can then use this information to improve existing computer models of the many dust streams that are associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle."

"We will also learn a lot about the size and type of material that is being incinerated by studying its speed and light curve - how each meteor trail brightens and dims as it burns up in the atmosphere," he said.

"The second video camera at each site will enable us to find out what the particles are made of," he added. "These cameras contain a grating that splits the light from the meteor trails into different colours. By analysing these colours, we can discover their chemical composition."

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© ESA Science 2001.