The 2011 Draconids: the first European airborne meteor observation campaign

Jeremie Vaubaillon, IMCCE
Pavel Koten, Astronomical Institute, ASCR
Anastasios Margonis, University of Berlin
Juraj Toth, Comenius University
Regina Rudawska, Comenius University
Maria Gritsevich, Ural Federal University
Joe Zender, SRE-S (Scientific Support Office, European Space Agency
Jonathan McAuliffe
Pierre-Dominique Pautet, Utah State University
Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute
Detlef Koschny, SRE-S (Scientific Support Office, European Space Agency
Francois Colas, IMCCE
Sylvain Bouley, University Paris-Sud
Lucie Maquet, IMCCE
Arnaud Leroy, Unranoscope d’Ile de France
Jean Lecacheux, Observatoire de Paris
Jiri Borovicka, Astronomical Institute, ASCR
Jürgen Oberst, University of Berlin
J. Watanabe, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan


On 8 October 2011, the Draconid meteor shower (IAU #8#8 , DRA) was predicted to cause two brief outbursts of meteors, visible from locations in Europe. For the first time, a European airborne meteor observation campaign was organized, supported by ground-based observations. Two aircraft were deployed from Kiruna, Sweden, carrying six scientists, 19 cameras and eight crew members. The flight geometry was chosen such that it was possible to obtain double-station observations of many meteors. The instrument setup on the aircraft as well as on the ground is described in full detail. The main peak from 1900-dust ejecta happened at the predicted time and at the predicted rate. The second peak was observed from the earlier flight and from the ground, and was caused most likely by trails ejected in the nineteenth century. A total of 250 meteors were observed, for which light curve data were derived. The trajectory, velocity, deceleration and orbit of 35 double station meteors were measured. The magnitude distribution index was high, as a result of which there was no excess of meteors near the horizon. The light curve proved to be extremely flat on average, which was unexpected. Observations of spectra allowed us to derive the compositional information of the Draconids meteoroids and showed an early release of sodium, usually interpreted as resulting from fragile meteoroids. Lessons learned from this experience are derived for future airborne meteor shower observation campaigns.