Saturday, May 24, 2014

Camelopardalid Meteor Shower!

If you came here expecting to see pictures of Camelopardalid meteors, then you're going to be disappointed. I make no apologies for misleading you. Disappointment is a part of life. If you are not used to disappointment, then you are probably:

  • Too young to have experienced how soul-crushingly disappointing life can be.
  • Rich, in which case you don't care because you can probably buy what you missed or substitute it with something else.
  • Living a sheltered life, where the real problems of the world never reach your comfortable little bubble.
  • Indifferent, possibly from watching too much MTV. You are probably a sociopath.
  • Oblivious to what's around you, in which case you're probably not even reading this.
  • Content no matter the circumstances, probably due to brain damage or self-delusion.
If you fit any of the categories above (except, perhaps, the last three), then feel free to thank me in the comments below for presenting you with disappointment.

The weather was lousy across much of the North American continent, but that didn't matter so much because the number of meteors was far below the most commonly reported predictions.

A brief window opened in the cloud cover here at my place during the predicted peak period, so I went outside with a camera to try to catch a few images and to observe. The window closed about 45 minutes after I went out. My tally was one meteor (that was not a Camelopardalid), an airplane, a firefly and an armadillo (which was on the ground).

Those of us who are used to disappointment often learn to make the best of things. We look for the silver lining, even if that lining is made of highly toxic mercury. We take lemons and make lemonade, even if we have a mild allergy to citrus. At any rate, here are a couple of "false positives" that I identified in the few images I got before the clouds took over.  Both of these are satellites.

Not a meteor. The bright star above and to the right of the trail is Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus.

Not a meteor.  The bright star below and to the left is Vega, in the constellation Lyra.

And here is a star trail image composed of the best images before the clouds got too thick:
Star Trails
If I was a conspiracy theorist (which I'm usually not), then I'd say that the hype behind this meteor shower was intended to entice a bunch of amateur astronomers to stay up late. The theory falls apart, though, because I don't know what that would accomplish, unless it was just some cruel joke. Still, if anyone has any ideas how making a lot of folks sleepy, grumpy and disappointed on a Saturday might affect global affairs, please feel free to post your theories in the comments.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)

Comets are in the news lately as C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS is now bright enough for viewing in small telescopes, and a new meteor shower is predicted for the night of May 23/24 as Earth passes through the debris trail of Comet 209P/LINEAR. I caught a break in the weather on May 18, 2014 before the Moon rose to capture a few images of C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS. This is not the same PANSTARRS comet that reached naked-eye visibility in 2013.

Comet C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS; ST80 on Vixen SP; Canon EOS Rebel T3; 8x120 @ ISO-1600
The bright star in the upper-right is Chi Ursae Majoris, located near the bowl of the Big Dipper. The edge-on spiral galaxy at top center is NGC 3877.

This image is a composite of two separate sets of images. I stacked one set of the original subs with the comet digitally removed to get a clear image of the background stars and galaxy. Then, I stacked the same subs centered on the comet to get a clearer image of it. Finally, the two images were combined in Photoshop CS6.

Also, I used a trial copy of BackyardEOS during this session. Normally, I would use the Canon EOS Utilities that came with my camera to control it from the computer, but my laptop recently suffered a hard drive failure and I haven't been able to locate the install disk. I've heard and read about BackyardEOS for some time, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. So far, I'm very impressed. It has a lot of great features and is, of course, custom-made for astronomical imaging. Maybe this will be my Father's Day present. :)