Sword of Mars: A bright Perseid meteor streaks to the left of planet Mars. You can see constellation Sagittarius just above the glow along the treeline.
This year’s Perseids meteor shower peak bridged two nights and sky conditions promised to be better Sunday than Saturday’s cloudy mess. So, off I went again to wait for meteors. On the recommendation of fellow skywatchers, I headed to a nearby Ohio state park which has a spot with the reputation of distant horizons and darker skies than we’re used to; that turned out to be true.
It was a long night at Findley State Park. The Perseids didn’t seem particularly active and really didn’t become noticeable until after 11:00 but there were a few showy fireballs to be enjoyed. I managed to capture a couple of bright meteors over the several hours I spent standing on the dam, looking up — my neck is still sore — and having all of my equipment getting covered in heavy dew. I finally left at 1:30 AM when all of my lenses had become fogged up and showed no sign of clearing.
Here is an extremely bright, and very slow fireball just within the right edge of the frame. I remember the streak appearing warm in color, yellowish, but the camera recorded the spectral colors you see here. The lights near the bottom of the picture are artificial lights onshore, not reflections of stars.
Finally, I packed up my dripping-wet gear and headed to the parking lot at about 1:30 AM but made the mistake of looking up before getting into my car. There was an amazing patch of stars surrounded by the black outlines of trees — the path of the Milky Way directly overhead. I grabbed a few shots with a lens that had somehow managed to defog, and reluctantly left for home. The experience, overall, was worth being tired and sore today.
Looking up from the parking lot: “My god, it’s full of stars” is a phrase associated with a scene from the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey” spoken by David Bowman as he entered an alien-created “stargate.”
Moon and Jupiter, July 8.
The night of July 8 started out with my wanting to photograph the Moon and Jupiter together in the western sky. There they were, hanging in the dark with a wisp of cloud lending mystery to the scene. It was lovely.
Clouds Moving In, beginning to cover the Moon and Jupiter.
Then clouds began to obscure Luna’s bright crescent. Thicker and thicker came the clouds and then, above the horizon, clouds lit up with flashes and thunder rumbled… a thunderstorm was coming! I was expecting storms to arrive later but there I was, all set up and ready to record the show!
Mars and Stars – the View to the South
I looked to the south and not yet reached by the approaching weather was the beautiful sight of brilliant planet Mars and the stars of constellation Scorpius. Lovely to see but about to be upstaged!
Lighting up the Distant Clouds
I made a lot of exposures, mostly showing clouds illuminated by hidden lightning though after the fact I discovered there had been faint streaks in the open all along. Sometimes the whole sky seemed to light up.
The Whole Sky Lit Up
As the storm grew closer, the lightning grew more intense until nicely-placed lightning bolts appeared and I got my best shot of the night. Only moments after that final good exposure the wind grew and rain began to fall, forcing me indoors.
Shot of the Night – Double Bolts
RAW image from Curiosity rover Sol 12. Credit: NASA/JPL
It’s kind of fun to download some of the RAW images sent from planet Mars by the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. Nothing fancy really (at least not yet), but for stretching the levels of the image, making a few adjustments here and there, and cleaning the pictures up a bit. I’m not doing this for science — all I want is a nice snapshot — so I’m not terribly worried about skewing data. It’s enjoyable and truly amazing that images recorded yesterday on the surface of Mars, many millions of miles distant, are available for me to play with and enjoy today. I’ll play with and share a few more; there are panoramas to be made!
My processed image from Curiosity rover Sol 12. Credit: NASA/JPL