CBA Belgium Observatory
Leonids 2001 Expedition to Flagstaff - The Pictures

The 2001 Leonids were truly a spectacular event. Although there was not a 'storm' such as in 1966, with meteors falling down like rain, the shower certainly did rain meteors and fireballs for many hours. The best shower activity I have ever seen in over 25 years of watching the sky. It turned the trip to Flagstaff into a lifetime event. Below is a selection of our expedition pictures. Enjoy !

Below is a short overview of my time spending at Flagstaff, during the Leonid 2001 expedition. It's a small sample of pictures, showing some of the places I visited.

Thursday November 15, 2001

After a long flight from Brussels over Philadelphia, I finally arrive at Phoenix Airport, AZ, late in the evening of November 15th. I'm glad to see Bob Fried, waiting to pick me up at the Baggage Claim section of the airport. With his Cessna airplane, we fly from Phoenix to the small airport of Flagstaff, and then drive up to the dark location of Braeside Observatory, where Bob lives.



Friday November 16, 2001
Waking up under a dark blue Arizona sky already is an experience by itself, especially if your used to Belgian skies. I start
my first day at Flagstaff with a visit to Braeside Observatory, Bob's well-known place. This is a truly amazing observatory, 
with a degree of automation that is seldom found in amateur environments. I enjoy the guided tour to the observatory dome
and the control room. Impressive !

Top : Bob Fried with his Cessna airplane
Far left : Braeside Observatory
Left : Entry point to the observatory
Below : 16" Cassegrain reflector at Braeside Observatory


Later that morning, I drive to nearby US Naval Observatory, where I have a visit scheduled with Arne Henden. He is a well known and very active astronomer, making a lot of valuable contributions from his USNO location, with a particular focus on photometry and astrometry. 

Arne takes me for a full tour of the USNO facilities, visiting the many telescopes and explaining in depth the scientific uses of the different equipments. He's an extremely enthusiastic astronomer, who apparently still enjoys observing on as many clear nights as possible !

It was a true pleasure meeting Arne in person !


In the afternoon, I drive to 35 miles east of Flagstaff to Meteor Crater ("Barringer Crater"), where I finally get to see the
world's best preserved meteorite impact. With the Leonids only two days 'away', this surely is the place to be. What an 
impressive sight ! The crater was created about 50.000 years ago after a devastating impact, and is 570 feet deep and nearly 
1 mile across.  There's an excellent museum next to the crater.

Driving back to Flagstaff, there's a whole story about the Leonids shower on one of the local radio stations. Also the local
newspapers are paying a lot of attention to the forthcoming event. And what pleases me a lot is the fact that all stories correctly
point to the many unknowns in the predictions, making sure not to oversell the event. 

Composite of 4 'panorama' images that I took near the rim of Meteor Crater. (c) Tonny Vanmunster

Saturday November 17, 2001

Today, I make a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. Exactly 10 years ago, I also visited the South Rim of Grand Canyon, together 
with my wife. It's an easy 1 1/2 hours drive from Flagstaff. Weather at the South Rim is excellent, with temperatures close to 20 
degrees C, so I spent nearly the entire day walking along the rim, and making a short trip in the canyon. There's no words to describe 
this national park ! 

I leave Grand Canyon National Park around 4pm, because I want to be back at Flagstaff in time to prepare for the Leonid
observations. Tonight's the night !

Driving back the 1 1/2 hours to Flagstaff more or less becomes a night mare. When I leave the Grand Canyon, I notice
some high cirrus clouds in the direction of Flagstaff. The closer I get to the town, the thicker clouds become. I wonder
if this is going to become another 'missed astronomical opportunity' for me (after the missed 1999 Total Solar Eclipse visible 
over Belgium). I try to find a local radio station with weather predictions for tonight, but all of them are just  playing music or 
commercials. When I finally arrive at Braeside Observatory, the weather is definitely looking bad, and I'm feeling lost.

And yet  ...  click here for our Leonids results !

                                                                                                                                     (c) Copyright Tonny Vanmunster, 2001