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SwRI researchers to study Leonids meteor shower from F-15

Ultraviolet imaging system will provide low-cost imaging and photometry

San Antonio -- November 13, 1998 -- As part of a project funded by NASA Ames Research Center of Mountain View, California, two Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) researchers are traveling to Japan for a closer look at the Leonids meteor shower, expected to brighten the Japanese sky November 17 and 18.

The days of the shower, planetary scientist Dr. S. Alan Stern, director of the SwRI Space Studies Department in Boulder, Colorado, will fly aboard a military F-15 aircraft to make comprehensive scientific observations using the SwRI-developed SWUIS-A system. SWUIS-A, the Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System-Aircraft version, provides low-cost astronomical imaging and photometry. Senior Research Engineer Bill Tomlinson will also travel to Japan to integrate the instrument with the military aircraft.

The SWUIS-A mission is part of a larger airborne campaign NASA is organizing in Japan to study the Leonids meteor shower next week. The goal of the SWUIS-A Leonids mission is to obtain magnitude-frequency and entry-trajectory information on Leonids fireballs as a part of the NASA Leonids '98 Airborne Campaign.

SWUIS-A, a derivative of the shuttle-borne SWUIS instrument developed by NASA and SwRI, was developed for use on high-altitude aircraft to enable the investigating astronomer to fly with the instrument. SWUIS-A has previously flown a number of high-altitude missions aboard NASA WB-57 and F-18 aircraft, with Stern as the flight astronomer. These missions have allowed SwRI researchers to obtain near-infrared imagery of star fields surrounding comet Hale-Bopp and to pioneer low-cost airborne occultation research.

For more information on the instrument, visit the SWUIS-A website at http://www.boulder.swri.edu/swuis/swuis.instr.html.

For more information about the Leonids meteor shower, contact Maria Martinez, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-3305, Fax (210) 522-3547 or Dan Durda  (303) 541-9084..

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