Leonid Meteor Shower

Is That a Shooting Star, or is it Mr Miall's Torch?

"It’s the funniest sight I've ever seen!" Mr Miall exclaimed as he came to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon, Dunstable, with Professor Monica Grady.

The reason: 15 Elite Scientists lying on the grass (on just a ground sheet to avoid the sheep droppings!) huddled together in sleeping bags, looking up at the stars (or should I say cloud!) on a very windy night.

Leonids Trip

Photo: Elite Scientists attempting to observe the Leonid Meteor Shower

The Elite Scientists were attempting to observe the Leonid Meteor Shower, which peaked on both the 17th and 18th of November. Their aim was to measure the speed, origin and trajectory of the meteors, as they radiated out of the constellation Leo. Professor Grady, and Revd. Christopher Ramsay were hoping to take pictures of the meteors in transit using a DSLR camera, affixed to a wide angle lens with a specialist diffraction grating. This is so we could take pictures of the "spectra" (rainbow patterns) of the meteors. Doing this will enable the students to deduce the metals that make up the meteorite dust grains, as each metal has its own spectra. They will use a special programme called IRIS to analyse the subsequent pictures of the meteors. Although it clouded over, it was a fun time, and a well-deserved hot chocolate was served at the end.


Photo: Spectra (rainbow patterns) of different elements as seen through a spectroscope.

Thanks to Miss Alvis, Mrs Bamping, Mr Ratcliff, Mr Miall, Mrs Hartley, and Revd. Christopher Ramsay (previous Chair of Governors) for accompanying us on the trip.

The Elite Scientist programme is funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant of £3000.

The next meteor shower watch will be the Geminds on Monday 14th December 2015, here's praying it will be a clear night!

Ms Kapila
Teacher of Science
Leader of Elite Scientists

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