So the Perseid meteor shower peaked over last weekend; Friday night to be specific. Man what a let-down! We had an excellent little get together to watch the shower, but talk about a dull sky! The combined total of meteor sightings between everyone in attendance was five or six! …For an entire evening of observation! It seems that this just wasn’t the year for a good shower.
There were a lot of contributing issues that really led to this being a non-event. The biggest one, of course, being the nearly full moon. It was so bright all night that no one even needed flashlights. There will hopefully be some good pictures despite the moon (read more on the setup below). The weather started off pretty awful, but by dark, had improved enough to make sitting out in the cold worthwhile. There were a few clouds in the sky, and there was definitely plenty of moisture in the air, but it seemed to get better and better as the night went on. All together though, I think pretty bad seeing.
We did have several fixed cameras and a ‘barn-door’ tracking mount in the field to help with observations. There was about 120° of the north to north-eastern sky covered by the fixed cameras. The fixed cams were all running approximately 1-2 minute exposures in a constant coverage rotation: Just before the shutter was clicked closed on say camera one, the shutter would be opened on camera two. This process continues down the line to keep at least an overlapping section of sky constantly exposed. The hope with this technique is that the fast meteors missed by our eyes, will be captured on film. Our barn-door mount camera was setup with a fisheye lens and aimed slightly more northerly than the fixed mounts. Mostly to point away from the moon as much as possible, but also to minimize ground ghosting as the camera moves. This camera was set for about one hour of exposure time, with the hope of getting some good deep sky pictures. If we don’t get gray fuzz from the moon lighting up the air, we should have some excellent shots of the milkyway with some meteors streaking through the foreground. Keeping fingers crossed!
As soon as the film is developed, the best of the pics will be posted. Check back soon, or follow our RSS feed to keep updated.
For info on building your own barn door mount, check out the Sage Observatory Blog as there will be step by step directions there soon.