Monday, May 26, 2014

Stargazing: Camelopardalid Meteor Shower

Did you go out to look for the Camelopardalid Meteor Shower Friday night? 

I did, but it didn’t look like this:
Photo credit: Bill Longo, Sudbury, Canada 
(from Bob King’s 5/24 post on UniverseToday)

It wasn’t a huge display, but very satisfying stargazing overall. Meteor tally: I saw 3 truly impressive meteors, half a dozen other nice ones, and 2-3 dozen flashes, many of which left me asking, “Was that a meteor, or an eye floater?” Under the circumstances, I’ll go with meteor.

I went with a friend down to Jordan Lake in Chatham County, NC. We arrived about 2:00am and stayed till 4:00am. Perched at the water’s edge on a boat ramp into the lake, we had a good north-facing exposure, with reasonably clear views to the east and west as well.

Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) was very clear in the sky, as was Polaris, the North Star. The rest of Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) wasn’t as bright. Likewise, the Milky Way was the faintest smudge across the sky to the northeast. I’m not very good at identifying constellations, even with my iphone app, “Sky Guide”. The stars were much more visible than from my home base, but nothing like the brilliant sky over the dark beach on Hilton Head at Thanksgiving, nor in Bimini many years ago. There's still a significant amount of light pollution in the night sky.

One of the most spectacular meteors I saw was a large, bright trail straight down the middle of the Big Dipper, shortly after we got setup and began to adjust to night vision. What a great start! I was ready for a show. It was slow but fairly steady, about one “good” meteor every ten minutes for so for the first hour and a half. Not much the last half hour, but that’s partly because I was falling asleep! As we were packing up to go, my companion saw a final spectacular meteor streak across the still-dark sky.
 Photo credit: NASA

By the time I got home, the sky was already lightening to that beautiful smoky blue that comes before dawn. I saw that sky often in college, leaving the computer, photo, and ceramic studios. But it’s a rare day now that I get to sleep till lunchtime to make up for such late hours!

So while the Camelopardalids didn't put on a great show, it was very satisfying, and felt like a good adventure. I'm looking forward to the Perseids and Leonids later this year, and hopefully Stargazing will be something I can report on a little more often here.

Dogs in House
Houdini, Maize, Malachi

Rachel Portman, Chocolat soundtrack


  1. Writing report:
    Novel editing, new text Ch13a

    Time: ~10min

  2. I'm afraid it was cloudy here! Scotland is not the best for astronomical events. Sounds like a good time.