[meteorite-list] Newspaper article Perseid observations
From: Marco Langbroek <marco.langbroek_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat Aug 14 10:04:47 2004
On the night of 11-12 August, while observing the Perseids, we had a
reporter with us. He wrote a nice impression of his night with us, which
appeared today in the Saturday science pages of the "Volkskrant", one of the
major Dutch newspapers. Below is an english translation of the Dutch
newspaper article. It gives a nice impression of an observing run at our
Biddinghuizen meteor observatory.
HUNTING THE PERSEIDS
Each few minutes it sounds as if Marco Langbroek is seeing a shooting
star for the very first time in his life. 'JOOOHH!'. He points after them,
along the sky, where sometimes a momentariily faint brushstreak is stiill to
be seen. Happy as a child. 'Nice!'
But from the murmur that follows it becomes clear that this is not the
first time that he sees something like this. Here, experience is speaking.
'Time 23.37.52, a plus 1 Perse?d, DCV 30, one and a half second persistent
trail straight through Pegasus.' He lies on a camp bed on a concrete track
behind a farm at Biddinghuizen. Besides him a bottle of coke, in his hand a
memorecorder, in which he speaks in what he sees. A shooting star brought
back to numbers. The picture caught in sound.
Langbroek, PhD in archaeology, is not the only one registering the
meteor stream this Wednesday evening in the Flevopolders. On the same
concrete track Robert Haas has set up his video camera with night-vision
equipment, and an array of eleven photographic cameras. With a weak red
miner's lamp on his head, in order not to disturb the dark, Haas is
adjusting his equipment.
The recordings will be eagerly examined by Peter Jenniskens a few days
later. A Dutch astronomer who once started this way too, with thick Jerseys,
anti-mosquito sticks and thermobottles of coffee, and who now works at the
American space agency NASA. Because amateur observations can help meteor
astronomers such as Jenniskens asses the structure of these shooting stars,
minuscule particles which enter the atmosphere with almost sixty kilometers
a second, there to burn up. Their released energy ionises the air, which
produces the trails of light.
The cameras of Haas show that the persistent trains sometimes exist of
three separate trails. Which possibly says something about the composition
of the cosmic grains. The tracks of the meteors this evening almost all come
from one point: the constellation Perseus, the direction where the dust
grains come from. The meteors are a kind of dendruff of comet Swift-Tuttle,
which it left behind in its orbit around the sun. Because the earth crosses
the orbit at this moment, medio August, there are much more shooting stars
to be seen than normal. Certainly now there is no moon and little clouds.
And certainly in the polder at Biddinghuizen, where thanks to a lack of
settlements and a lack of light pollution, some of the best skies of the
country can be had. 'WOOOHHH!' Langbroek had momentarily removed himself to
the edge of the property. 'The most beautiful meteors always appear during
'Damndamndamn', it nevertheless sounds from time to time from the
mouth of Haas. The feed of the motor driving the camera which tracks along
with the moving stars has broken. Or an airplane with bright landing lights
heads exactly for Cassiopeia, the constellation where Haas has aimed the
supersensitive night-vision equipment. "So much light will spell the end for
the image intensifier'. But he 'no longer gets stressed by such sudden
problems, or a beautiful meteor that inadvertently has been missed'. In
former days he did. But he is doing this for 25 years now, and he knows that
soon another one will be crossing the field. While meanwhile also sounds, in
addition to the exclamations of Langbroek and the sound of grazing sheep,
the reassuring clicking of the cameras, the so-called Haas-battery. He
constructed it himself, eleven T70-cameras each guarding a segment of the
sky, and all transporting automatically and at the same time, after an
exposure of eight minutes. Above the cameras a revolving disc is rustling,
with in it six self-milled triangular openings. Those chop up possible
trails of a meteor on the photograph, from which its speed can be derived.
Langbroek and Haas continue untill the clouds move in, near half past
two. In three-and-a-half hours of effective observing, Langbroek observed
225 shooting stars by the naked eye. Then they wrap up. Tomorrow their jobs
wait again. On to the Leonids, in November.
By Michael Persson, "Volkskrant", 14 August 2004. Based on his presence with
our team on 11-12 August
Dr Marco Langbroek
Leiden, the Netherlands
52.15896 N, 4.48884 E (WGS 84)
Received on Sat 14 Aug 2004 10:04:38 AM PDT