Perseid Meteors

You have undoubtedly heard that we are in the midst of the annual Perseid meteor shower, and that it is expected to be about double the usual rate of meteors.  I wasn’t able to go to a very dark location (as you should, to really enjoy a meteor shower), but did go to a spot with a good foreground scene, the Portland Women’s Forum, near Corbett, OR.

I was expecting a handful of people and that I would be able to sit in my car with the camera & tripod nearby.  Boy, was I wrong!  There were hundreds of people there, probably because of the media hype about the expected rate of meteors.  The rate looked pretty normal to me, but I didn’t hear anyone complain about it.

Using the Canon 6D and 24mm f/1.4 lens, I shot several hundred exposures of 10 seconds each, one right after the other, then went through them all today to see whether I had captured any meteors.  You have to be careful to not mistake a satellite or airplane for a meteor – there are lots more of those than meteors.  And there are probably quite a few faint meteors that I missed, but here are the best shots:


This is looking northeast along the Columbia river.  Vista House is visible in the lower right, although it is so over-exposed that it created a large red lens flare.  The 2 bright streaks on the left (one dropping below the horizon) both appear to be meteors, but perhaps not Perseids.  Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they seem to radiate, in this case, Perseus.  But Perseus is just coming over the horizon in the center of this photo, so neither of these streaks seems to come from there.  The short streak between the 2 meteors and a bit left is a satellite or airplane.  Another faint streak above and to the right is probably also a satellite, but I can’t be certain.


A little later (and darker), I captured a brighter meteor that definitely is a Perseid.  The shorter streaks in the center and just above the horizon are not meteors.  We can usually distinguish between satellites and airplanes because airplanes are brighter and flash (especially red lights).  However, if an airplane is distant it can look a lot like a satellite.  Particularly since these streaks are close to the horizon there is a strong possibility that they are airplanes, I think.  In this shot you can see Vista House more clearly.  It looks like a lot of people were over there, as well.

Although I like having the river and all the lights in the foreground, the meteors show up better in the darker skies higher up, so I pointed the camera up and eventually captured this:


This bright meteor passed just below the Andromeda galaxy.  You can also see the Double Cluster to the left of the meteor, and just a hint of the Heart & Soul Nebulae to the left of that.  This is the only frame in this position that has a clear meteor captured, but I have many frames of the same area of the sky, so I could, theoretically, stack a bunch of those frames to reveal more nebulosity, then add the meteor image back in.  The image is already heavily processed to remove the gradient caused by the light pollution.

Given the light pollution and other less-than-ideal conditions, this worked out pretty well.  But I’m unconvinced that the rate of meteors was significantly above average.  Can we expect the reporters to correct their predictions?  Yeah, probably not.


About Greg Marshall

I am a retired electronics engineer and after a few months of enjoying my leisure I began to miss doing product development. My astronomy hobby always needed new solutions to unique problems, so I decided that whenever I came up with a good solution I would try to make it available to others.

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