Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's a-rainin' me...teors

Hey, it's been a long time (again). I feel like I've forgotten more than I ever knew about astronomy over the nearly 2 year blog hiatus but it's never too late to get back in the saddle.

Dew, no bueno
Last night was the peak of this year's Perseid meteor shower. I packed up my photo gear, my daughter packed up the bedding and snacks she requires, and we headed out to Mingo Observatory for a late night. The media likes to drum up excitement for the Perseids in particular by saying, "This shower is predicted to be very active!" This, of course, means nothing. Still, the main reason most of us go out and sit all night is the possibility of the ever elusive "meteor storm". I always assume this phenomenon occurs as soon as I call it a night, get in bed, and close my eyes. This is why you stay out until it's 3am and your camera lens has fogged over.
Car lights, also no bueno
The sky was clear and the moon had set in early evening, it was a perfect night. We arrived to quite the crowd out at the observatory. There had to have been 300 people there at one point. I was glad to see a large crowd out to stargaze but that also means there are cars (with giant bright lights blazing) and flashlights all over the place. This naturally makes photography, and even seeing the stars, difficult to say the least. Remember folks, when you're out observing, limit all white light (use red light if needed) and when arriving or leaving after dark use only your parking lights (trust me, you can see just fine, go slow).  It takes approx 45 minutes to fully adjust your eyes to the dark (you can see surprisingly well enough) but it only takes seconds to ruin that adjustment.

Enough lecturing, here's some shots. I captured very few meteors and some unfortunately were caught during a taillight parade. I did play around with some full Milky-Way panoramic stitches, you can definitely see the light pollution problem we face in SW PA.
This one happened just as my exposure stopped and cut it short.
Check out the green tail on it though!

This was prety cool but the car lights interfered a bit.

Starting to fog over the lens but nabbed this one.
You can see the Pleiades and even the Double Cluster (M103)

Pretty little guy in the Summer Triangle.
This was straight up.
Bonus points: find the "coat-hanger" asterism (Brocchi's cluster)

Milky-Way towards Sagittarius
Galactic center, lots of stuff going on in there

Milky-way up and over from South to North (upside down)
Thanks for all the light Pittsburgh.
11 frames stitched
Bonus points: find the Andromeda Galaxy

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