In the next couple of nights, the Perseids meteor shower is supposed to be peaking, and of course, I say this with a certain fatalism, because my personal history of meteor showers is pretty disappointing: one fantastic shower, when I was unable to capture anything on film, and then quite a few absolutely dead nights when I was more than adequately prepared to snag images of them. Still, nothing will be seen if we don’t try, right?
I figured the announcement needed some kind of image, but I don’t have any – not the kind of illustration I should, anyway. But then I remembered what I’d gotten last time around, a curiosity that I discovered entirely by accident. And so I edited together a small animated gif (pronounced, “SHON-reh”) that shows what I found. That includes a bonus!
So, these are four exposures of the southern sky, hoping a meteor would cross the frame, and almost full resolution at that, so ‘zoomed in’ quite a bit. Ignore the bright, stationary dots; those are sensor noise that I didn’t bother to edit out. All of the streaks running diagonally, upper left to lower right, are stars, streaked by the Earth’s rotation in the roughly-one-minute exposures. But the single streak running upper right to lower left is something else. I’d initially thought I captured a couple of very dim meteors (these are very small in the full frame,) mostly because to even see them, the frame has to be magnified significantly and thus I have to scroll around to see details, and never realized that they were close to the same positions. In preparing this animation, I found I had four in sequence, and thus we’re looking at some kind of satellite, one not moving very fast and not reflecting a lot of light; chances are it’s some old rocket booster, or even a bit of debris.
But then, as I was finalizing the animation, I found the other, a dim little dot moving vertically right smack in the center of the frame. It barely shows movement in the one-minute exposures, so it’s got a long orbit, and pretty much a polar one.
At some point I may attempt to pin down what these are, since I have the day and times, and a rough indication of direction, but for now, I’m trying to post this to alert my legion of readers to the Perseids shower, and this has already taken enough time to produce, so that little research project will wait a bit longer.
Shit. In previewing the post right before approving it, I found another – look at the purple dot at bottom left.