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Leonid MAC 1999:
Day 4 (November 14):
First Test and RAF Mildenhall

We flew throughout the night and tested our equipment. The headsets were great and numerous meteors were observed. I would guess the Leonids were running about 5 per hour, at least down to 6th magnitude. Out of a dozen or so I saw during six hours, maybe only one was brighter than magnitude 0. What was the highlight? An active aurora borealis to our north. My first ever. It was easily seen out our northern windows, but was best seen in the fields of our light intensified cameras. There were pillars of light between which curtains of light pulsated and seemed to move upwards.

Observations ended with approaching twilight. The Atlantic below us was thick with clouds as the sun burst forth above the horizon.

Sunrise over the Atlantic as we fly towards England. These are two images captured off the video tape I shot. The left image is a view of the sunrise out the cockpit windows. The right image is looking southward. Photographs by Gary W. Kronk.

After a while the clouds broke up and several islands appeared below. Then it clouded up again.

The British Isles are briefly seen through a break in the clouds. Photographs by Gary W. Kronk.

Shortly thereafter the sound of the engines changed, indicating we had begun to descend. Eventually we passed through the clouds and found a cloudy, wet day was at hand. Despite this, the countryside below was beautiful.

This is another image from my video tape. It shows the countryside just as we were dropping through the cloud deck. I am not sure where this was, but we were not far from RAF Mildenhall. Photograph by Gary W. Kronk.

This is another image from my video tape, showing the RAF Mildenhall sign. Photograph by Gary W. Kronk.

We landed at RAF Mildenhall and were assigned rooms. I freshened up a bit, and then met my new friends to walk to the Officer's Club and have breakfast. There was a buffet waiting. The food selection was great, but the best part was this very nice older lady, like somebody's mother, who came into our dining area and offered to make us waffles. I told her I wanted blueberry and Michael said that sounded good. The lady then asked if we wanted cream on them. I said yes and Michael stared at me with a funny look on his face. I asked what was wrong and he responded "cream?" I said go for it. Both of us really enjoyed our blueberry and cream waffles!

I finally was in bed at 1 p.m. I fell asleep quickly and woke up at 6 p.m. Peter wanted us to keep sleeping during the day and stay awake all night to stay in tune for the main mission nights.

We got together at the Galaxy Club at 8 p.m. Klaas, Michael, Dave, and myself went and looked for the other scientists, but found only a few. We ate and talked. As we prepared to leave, we went to a different door and saw a sign pointing to the Leonid MAC meeting upstairs. We were late, but others came later. We actually arrived just in time because, as it turned out, Michael was giving a presentation on the ESA equipment. The funny thing is no one had told him. He did well anyway.

After the get together, several members of our team met in the main club to discuss issues we had to solve with our experiment. This included Klaas, Michael, Dave, Chris, Jane, and myself. After about an hour we split into smaller groups. Michael invited Klaas and I back to his room for drinks (there were stocked refrigerators in each room). We talked about lots of things until 1 a.m. and then we went to our separate rooms. Since Peter wanted us to try and stay up all night, I watched television until 6 a.m.

Go to Day 5--November 15

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