Come spot meteors with us for the 2nd biggest (ish) meteor shower of the year! Final date may move in the week beforehand based on weather and organiser's social diary. Free event (though donations to fund the meetup fees, or offers of drinks, gratefully accepted).
The Leonids (http://meteorshowersonline.com/leonids.html) run from the 13th to 21st November every year (peaking 17th). Named due to their originating point ("radiant") appearing in the constellation of Leo, as the Earth flies through comet Tempel-Tuttle's tail debris in our orbit around the sun.
This is simple: all you need is to dress up extra warmly, so you don't have to quit early! If inexperienced at cold nighttime astronomy outside, bring (possibly 2) extra clothing layers on top of what you think you need (ie. plan for being outside a few hours then add more layers). Don't forget gloves, hat (highly recommended), scarf/similar, and thicker socks/shoes or boots suitable for grass. Thermal underwear is a great addon.
Optionally bring: reclining chairs/ rugs/ cushions/ sleeping bags/ space-blanket/ waterproof layers as you like (lying on your back is easiest way to see more of the sky without getting a tired neck and not to miss any, but also the coldest). - it will get very cold late on if its a clear sky and we're on the cold ground (clouds act like a blanket so on a clear day/night, as we're hoping to have selected, it will get cold fast)!
No need to bring telescope or binoculars - do if you like to look at other things and don't mind missing out on meteors, but absolutely the best tool to see meteors with, is your own eyes and the ability to point them upwards for minutes at a time. Very beginner friendly! Cameras also welcome with a similar caveat (only useful for meteor photos if can do long exposures & with a tripod/other steady support); please don't use flash around us.
Red torches are fine if you have them - they don't ruin your/our night vision when we're well adjusted to it. Otherwise do be careful where you point lights! There are smartphone apps (for Android devices at least) that can dim and redden the display even more beyond your minimum setting to help retain your night vision too (don't forget to reset to normal before you get into daylight or it'll be impossible to see!).
We'll gather a crowd of us at the pub meet point. Please aim to be at the pub for the start or soon after if you can (or let us know ahead if late), you'll avoid your own stress worrying to find us and delaying us all. You'll have a say where we walk to, and we'll explain what to expect; you'll relax with the friendly group first, time for a brief drink if you want.
We'll then walk to the common around 8pm (or earlier if people are there and ready in time). I expect we'll head for Tooting Common's cricket pitch just to the east and a little up Dr. Johnson Avenue (pitch is on grass to the right of that road), around 10-15mins walk. Though we will comment on the event to confirm exactly where, once we set off/get there.
If you might arrive later, either take your chances finding us, or make sure you have my no. (see "how to find us" comment for the event, visible on event web page and phone app event location description).
For the pub, via public transport, Tooting Bec tube station is on the Northern line and nearest, via 249/319 bus or 10 minute walk east along Tooting Bec Road to the pub, the 249 also comes from Balham station (with its mainline service to/from Victoria via Clapham Junction). Streatham stations (except Streatham Common) are close enough too, 319 comes down from just above Streatham Hill, 249 joins the route from the other direction at St.Leonards. Nearest stops to Rose & Crown are Manafort Road or Franciscan Rd (first one you come across).
Driving? You can park on Avoca Road next to the pub, or Elmbourne Road right opposite the pub alongside the common - do check for the double-yellow (or red) lines to avoid fines.
If arriving later and we are indeed at the cricket pitch you can walk/still use 249/319 busses til "Tooting Athletics Track" stop, or drive and park in the car park at the bottom (south end) of Dr.Johnson Ave (next to the bus stop). Walk down Dr.Johnson Ave. and when you see grassy common on the right, the cricket pitch is on the larger green there (if thats where we are). Check parking restrictions but I believe that car park is free after 6pm. Maybe you could bring folding/reclining chair(s) if you have any and the space for it, as it'll be harder for others walking/public transport to bring bulkier items.
The moon (in its current phase) will (not?) be up from ???? til ????. This meteor shower is fairly active, you ought to see them away from the radiant point so if thats cloudy, look for a nearby clear patch. Keep an eye out in the evenings and mornings of the same week too if you're an early riser. I can help show you where to look at the meet, if you're lost in the constellations - assuming not cloudy in that area. Google Sky Map is one free useful phone app to help find constellations, there are many other options too.
The comet Tempel-Tuttle discovered in 1865 is responsible for this meteor shower, from its shed debris. These meteors are the fastest of any shower, at around 44 miles per second with up to 15 per hour! That means more fireballs than most big showers, which should make them easier to see if we get any as they'll outshine Venus. If we're realllly lucky we might even get one with more colour visible.
In London the viewing is not as good as further away but we've always managed to spot a few if the clouds don't get in the way. Also plenty of chance to chat, hang out and learn about other things out there while waiting in between meteors.
As always, and I'll say again for first timers, please note, all experienced stargazers will strongly recommend bringing at least one extra layer all over (including socks) to keep warm: one or two more layers at this time of year than you think you'll need for standing outside for a while in an open space. It cools down quickly in the evening especially if we get clear skies and, standing (or even more so lying) relatively still on open ground for longer periods, you will notice it more than you expect. In autumn/winter, a hat, and gloves or thick warm pockets, are pretty essential. People have used those shiny silvered space blankets before too.
We've been meeting for the Leonid meteors since 2015, as well as the Perseids (usually a great show) so lets hope we're successful! See how 2015's meet went! (http://www.meetup.com/swl-stargazers/events/224667357/)
More info on Leonids here: http://meteorshowersonline.com/leonids.html