(meteorobs) On the Perseids above the French Provence and the African SDA-CAP expedition...

Michel Vandeputte michelvandeputte at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 18 10:35:16 EDT 2011

Hi all, 

Despite the full moon light I travelled with my girlfriend to the Provence for observing the Perseids main maximum. Again (or normal?); the weather was horrible in our Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands). 
I enjoyed  the clear skies with only a rare cirrus cloud (even never in my field of view). There was some humidity in the lower atmosphere causing some more scattering of the bright moonlight. Limited magnitude was about 5.2 till 5.6 at best before dawn. Moon at ~33-34° altitude during transit and the milky way was slightly visible with the naked eye. I observed between 20:55 - 03:25 UT for 6,5 hours observing time. I was a bit tired from the 1100 km long travel but I was happy to see the first earthgrazing Perseids at lower radiant altitude. They are awesome! Rates stayed a bit low during the first hours but increased during the night. 
Hourly counts of Perseids: 9 - 22 - 23 - 32 - 40 - 46. In grand total I counted 241 meteors (195 PER - 1 KCG - 45 Sporadics). 
As the return with full moon in 2003, I did not observe any fireball. Best meteors were at magnitude -3. But even a -3 or  -2 are beautiful meteors! 

High light of my 'meteor summer' was of course the joint of the SDA - CAP expedition to Namibia together with some members of the Dutch Meteor Society, as a sequel on our 2008 expedition on La Palma for the same events. You can read the analyses in WGN 36:6 (2008). We observed during 10 nights around the SDA-CAP maximum. Only July 27-28 was clouded out. Some nights were pretty freezing cold and windy! I observed around 60 hours Teff and counted ~3000 meteors. The SDA meteor stream is really a great shower in the southern hemisphere with a long lasting peak during several days. In best circumstances (with truly dark skies and the radiant almost in the zenit) I counted almost 60 meteors/ hour from that stream! Also the duration of that stream is impressive long; only during August 6-7 the activity definitely decreased...All the analyses are in progress thanks to Carl Johannink. 
The Capricornid shower produced many nice fireballs and nice meteor rates. The Perseids were only active before dawn at low level activity with the radiant at 10 degrees altitude; but we were charmed by many earthgrazing beauties.. Also the sporadic background is a bit weaker than over our Northern hemisphere longitude (=normal). The Pisces Austrinids? OK: we did see some meteors from it but this shower is not a big target for visual observations. I was also surprised that the radiant classification between the different showers is much easier in the southern hemisphere. 
Anyway: this was one BIG experience for all of us on all facts of the expedition (the country, the people, the night sky, our hosts, the nature,...)

Next target: Draconids!! 

Kind regards

Michel Vandeputte
VVS - Meteor Section - Belgium

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