Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Geminid Meteor Shooting

The peak nights for this year's Geminid meteor shower was December 13-14.  I'm sure all of my BFE friends set your alarms for 4:00 am to head out into the country with your cameras.  4 AM allowed the moon to set and enhance the darkened skies.  Darkened skies around here might be tough to find.  I'm not real sure about country roads down here, too many whacko Floridians, so I don't fight it.  I just walk over to the tennis courts next to the bayou and hope for the best.  See, you can tell I'd rather take on a loose gator than a syph-bit, Neander-zom, 10 IQ, piss-pant Floridian.   

This is where I would like to tell you that I took the most dazzling Nat-Geo type blazing-across-the-sky meteor photographs and then lean back and listen to all of the "ooo's" and "aww's" of my accomplishment.  But, sadly,  if pathetic amateurs like me could do that, then we'd all be professionals.   

To paraphrase the Breton Fisherman's Poem,  "The sky is so big, and my camera is so small."  I discovered a couple of things while traipsing around in the wee hours on Friday and Saturday morning.


  • It got down to around 55 degrees on Friday morning.  Shorts and sandals made it very chilly, indeed.  I may be losing my Midwest cold toughness.  
  • Pointing the camera at the radiant point, the constellation Gemini Twins, really didn't increase my ability to find meteors.  
  • Continuing on that line of thinking, it seemed that meteors would be wherever I didn't have my camera pointed.  Hmmm. 
  • The sounds in the bayou were spooky.  

That is a long way of saying I didn't capture many streaking meteors.   What I was able to do was continue my experimentation of night photography,  create a bit of a mystery, and received a sign from God.  Not too bad for a couple hours of shooting pictures.    

Now to what I did get.  Keep in mind that these are timed exposures, averaging around 10-20 seconds.  The stars will be sharply delineated, but the light clouds will be blurry. 
  

First off, this is what I mean by blurred clouds.  In a timed exposure the stars will remain where they belong, but moving objects like the clouds will blur.   If I timed it for 5 minutes then the stars would start moving also.



Geminid Meteor #1

I got 2 shots of meteors.  Not very good, but I learned that meteors  don't necessarily behave in a manner that allows us to be great photographers with each exposure.  Patience, time, and luck matter.  This picture would have had a better streak if I'd timed it longer. 


Geminid Meteor #2

My second shot of a meteor was OK and as these things go, not bad for someone who doesn't know much about astro-photography.  It just made me want more chances to head out in a really dark country sky next time.  Maybe Sutor Woods?  Perhaps a neighbor in BFE North Henderson?    

Straight down from this one just coming out of the palms in the center might seem like a second meteor but it is actually a plane.  



You can tell by the light bumps running along it.  


Now the mystery…








The first couple of pictures had me thinking I had been able to get 2 meteors in one shot.  But then I realized the time sequence wasn't right.  Like I said, all of these are timed shots.  Let's assume they are around 15 seconds in length.  Meteors or shooting stars are milliseconds in length.  They would not have lasted the 2 or 3 minutes this sequence of shots took.  What are they?  They don't have the blinking lights of airplanes.  Satellites?  Maybe.   The sun was coming up, maybe they were reflecting that light.  The last picture was taken at 6:05 and sunrise was 7:12.  UFO's? NSA spy drone?  Santa's reconnaissance sleigh's?    





Before we get to my sign from God, let me give you just one more picture.  As a kid we all liked the Ursa Major constellation.  The Big Dipper was always the easiest to find.  Tonight. or rather, this morning, the Big Dipper was upside down.  



And finally, the sign from God.  I haven't received too many signs in my life.  Plenty of calls, no answers.  


This sign I received was this less than hopeful cloud formation I saw while walking the Shawshank compound a year or so ago, hoping for a reprieve from the governor. 

And then I thought, well, maybe that first sign wasn't really a sign at all.  Maybe it was just one of those unusual cloud formations that in one second looks like that then turns into a headless rabbit.  So, I promised myself I would be on the lookout for another sign.  Then I saw it as I was grocery shopping one day last year.  


Well, that didn't seem so encouraging so I decided it may have been meant for Florida, but since I'm not really a Floridian it didn't refer to me.  

 So this morning's sign, I think, could actually be something good.  



As I was perusing the pictures from my early morning skywatching, I noticed this cloud formation as I was about ready to pack up.  Clearly visible in the upper cloud is the letter "B".  I think this is a good omen for me.  Obviously it means "B" for "Blythe".  Of course it could stand for a lot of things starting with B, but let's keep it positive until we get a another sign.  


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