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Pre-dawn Peak of Leonid Meteor Shower + Stargazing Hike at Mason Mill Park

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: NE Atlanta near Clairmont Rd & I-85   Hike: Pre-dawn Peak of Leonid Meteor Shower + Stargazing Hike at Mason Mill Park  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Tue, Nov 17 2020  4:30 am >> Tue, Nov 17 2020 6:30 am
Registration Opens: Mon, Nov 16 2020 7:00 am
Registration Cut Off: Tue, Nov 17 2020 1:00 am
Event Duration:2 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D1: Easy
Distance:2 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Charlie Cottingham
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:10
Minimum Group Size:2
Number Registered So Far: 7 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: No


IN a NUTSHELL:  Calling fellow skygazing enthusiasts who don't mind occasionally being early risers!  We intend to enjoy the famous Leonid Meteor Shower, and for sure we can get in a scenic pre-dawn "stargazing night hike."
  This fall's annual Leonid shower is expected to peak during the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday Nov 17th.   Meteors are actually bits of fast-moving comet or asteroid debris ("meteoroids") that have produced an intense glow from the friction of their collisions at supersonic speeds with the earth's atmosphere. Nicknamed "Shooting Stars" or "Falling Stars," most meteors have about the same brightness as stars when viewed at night.
 Tuesday's early morning forecast expects clear skies and NO chance of rain - but temperatures only in the low 40s, so bundle up!  
We'll begin the event with meteor viewing from the high dark-sky wooden deck on the PATH trail near the Mason Mill parking lot.  At an appropriate time we'll include also a scenic night hike during which we may continue to see a few meteors.  Our good old "naked eyes" are fine for this event - esp. for meteor viewing and also for other amazing bright objects including the constellations Leo, Gemini & Orion, the Pleiades, the north star Polaris, the bright "dog star" Sirius and the planet Venus.  I'll be glad to bring my own laser pointer and binoculars to help you identify and zoom in on them.  A "bonus" for early morning Leonid viewers this year is that the moon will be just 2 days past "New" phase, meaning great sky darkness all night.  A bright moon would greatly reduce visibility of the meteors andother objects.

MEETUP SPOT and EVENT "TIMETABLE":  We'll gather a few minutes before 4:30 AM in Mason Mill Park's free parking lot—by the stone restroom building.  See Directions below.   (NOTE:  The park restrooms have normally been been kept locked during the months since the pandemic began, so please take this into account before you arrive.  On recent Mason Mill events we've found it easy to observe the CDC's Covid-19 guidelines regarding safe social distancing, etc.) After introductions it's just a 3- or 4-minute walk via the "PATH" trail to a high boardwalk with a wooden deck.  We'll regroup there and depending on the amount of cloud cover can "skygaze" for meteors, stars and planets - see more details below.  At an appropriate time during the event we'll enjoy a leisurely paced Hike on the PATH Trail and may include a couple of scenic creekside loops beside the   Our total hiking distance will be no more than 2 miles.  Our target time for concluding the event is 6:30 AM, but anyone is welcome to "split" at any time provided you let us know you're doing so.  It's easy to get back to our cars.

MORE about the LEONIDS and other METEOR SHOWERS:  During the 3rd week of November each year we have a very reliable "meteor shower" called the Leonids. From the high deck discussed above, we're likely to see several bright meteors as we've enjoyed on several other past viewing sessions at Mason Mill.  For spotting meteors it's best just to relax supine on a beach towel or pad and stare upward with our naked eyes.  I can use my green laser pointer to point out other cool celestial objects including the meteors' "radiant" (apparent origin point) in the constellation Leo, which is high overhead during pre-dawn viewing in GA each November.
  Annual meteor showers such as the Leonids are caused by debris deposited around the sun over millions of years by successive solar orbits of various comets.  Each such "shower" has a specific "parent comet."  When a comet nears the sun, its nucleus sheds clouds of rubble that spread out along its orbit, creating a continuous stream of debris ("meteoroids") that continue moving through the vacuum of space in roughly the same orbit as their "parent comet."  Whenever the Earth's orbit takes it through one of these fast moving streams the colliding meteoroids experience intense friction with the Earth's atmosphere which produces the glowing "meteors," and if many of these are visible it's called a "meteor shower. " The cosmic "parent" of the Leonid shower is is a very reliable comet called "Tempel-Tuttle."  During the 3rd week of November each year its ancient debris stream extends like a long cylinder, pointing toward its radiant in Leo from the colliding earth.
  Most meteors have about the same brightness as stars - hence the nickname "shooting stars."  Most comet particles (a.k.a. "meteoroids") that become meteors are hardly bigger than grains of sand and completely vaporize from the friction of their high-speed collision with the atmosphere.  Larger comet particles can become bright "fireball meteors" that may streak all the way across the sky, and if they can survive the remaining friction may actually impact on the Earth as "meteorites."
  The stream of a comet's debris particles colliding with the Earth can be likened to a blizzard of snowflakes hitting the windshield of a fast-moving car, and their radial pattern seems to come from a "bull's eye" at a particular radiant spot in space (as shown in the graphic above).  The observed meteor streaks associated with a particular shower can appear with almost equal likelihood in any part of the sky, but their imaginary paths when extended backward seem to have originated at the same radiant (such as this one's in Leo).  On any clear night we may also see "sporadic" meteors streaking through various parts of the sky that are NOT associated with any particular comet or radiant.

FOR MORE about the LEONID METEOR SHOWER click this link:

ABOUT the PARKS & TRAILS:  Mason Mill and Medlock are two adjoining DeKalb County parks just east of Clairmont Road that are conveniently connected via a network of scenic shady hiking/biking trails and boardwalks.  The mile-long South Peachtree Creek Trail is the main trail that links them, and like the "Silver Comet" was designed and built to the high standards of the "PATH Foundation."  It features a half-mile-long raised wooden deck through the forest canopy above the creek.  Another portion of this trail is an amazing high wooden walkway and deck that cross the railroad tracks and give hikers nice views of ruins of the early-20th-Century "Decatur Waterworks."  Since 2017 the PATH foundation has also built and opened two more "double-wide spur connector" trails from the heart of Mason Mill Park.  One extends ~1/2 mile northward to North Druid Hills Road and the other ~1/2 mile southward to Emory University's fine trail network.  We AOCers have enjoyed using them often in many of our Mason Mill hikes.  There are also several miles of smaller wooded trails in the vicinity that are fun to explore along the various creek banks, hills and old ruins.

FOR an interactive COLOR MAP of the SOUTH PEACHTREE CREEK TRAIL and its Mason Mill / Emory U. vicinity, click this link:

Required Items to Bring:

• Wear comfortable well-broken-in Athletic Shoes or Hiking Boots and comfortable Lightweight Clothing appropriate for the weather.  If you have a Headlamp
 or small Flashlight please bring it - ideally one that can switch from white light to red light for preserving your night vision for skygazing.

• Hydrate in advance and carry in your Daypack or Fanny Pack a filled Water Bottle or your "Camelbak" or other hydration system.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

-Consider bringing a
Snack in your fanny pack or daypack in addition to your water - esp. if you haven't already eaten dinner.  We can enjoy our snacks at a couple of scenic stops along the way and share any extra food or refreshment items.

-For our Skygazing bring a pair of Binoculars and/or a portable Telescope if you happen to have either.  The various free downloadable SmartPhone Sky Map apps are great too for observing and studying the night sky!

-Consider bringing a light Beach Towel, camping Sleeping Pad, etc. so you can lie comfortably on the observing deck and relax as we scan the sky for meteors.

How to Get There:
Event Directions:


1. From the I-85 "Clairmont" exit (Exit #91) take Clairmont Road southward (toward Decatur) 2.3 miles to the traffic light at McConnell Drive. (This is the first light south of the much busier junction and light at North Druid Hills Road).

2. Turn Left onto McConnell Drive, go 0.1 mile ahead and turn Right at the stop sign to stay on McConnell (following signs toward Mason Mill Park and DeKalb Tennis Center).

4. Almost immediately ahead turn Left at the Mason Mill Park entrance sign into the large free parking lot.  We'll gather by the stone Restroom building adjoining the children's playground near the Park entrance.  (NOTE:  The park restrooms have normally been been kept locked during the months since the pandemic began, so please take this into account before you arrive.)

For a Map or Zoomable Satellite View of this Meetup Spot click the square blue & green "Event Location" icon near the top of this article.

GPS or USERS:  You can augment the above directions by entering as your Destination either of the following for the Mason Mill Park parking lot spot where we gather:
 Street Address:  (A "virtual address" of the parking lot entrance gate.)
    1322 McConnell Drive, Decatur, GA 30033
 Lat/Lon Coordinates: (Be sure to include the comma & minus sign.)
    33.8079, -84.3066 

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cost Includes:

Free Event with Free Parking!

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.