The Perseid meteor shower is arguably the best meteor shower of the year. Under optimal conditions, 60 or more meteors per hour can be seen during the shower’s peak. The meteors are tiny particles of ice and rock, remnants of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, whose orbit the Earth intersects every August.
While clouds hindered the viewing of the peak of the Perseid meteor shower this week, they didn’t ruin the show. Here are a few photos taken on three mornings this week.
August 7th: A faint Perseid slashes down toward the gate wall in the encroaching dawn.
August 12th: Close up of a Perseid fireball. This meteor’s brightness exceeded that of Venus as the cometary debris slammed into the atmosphere. The meteor started out in the red end of the spectrum (upper left) and transitioned to blue-white as it heated up and vaporized.
August 13th: Another Perseid appears above the gate, to the upper right of rising Orion (the meteor’s actually in the neighboring constellation, Eridanus).
August 13th: The meteor in the previous photograph left a ‘train’ that glowed for over 90 seconds. The glowing train is the result of vaporized rock and metal (likely iron and sodium), mixing with ozone in the upper atmosphere. This photo is a 30-second exposure, taken a few seconds after I saw the meteor. You can see the upper level winds are already beginning to contort its shape.
August 13th: This is the fourth and final photo of the meteor train (called a ‘persistent train’). It was a 20-second exposure, ending about 90 seconds after the beginning of the first meteor train photo (it was actually a few seconds longer since I paused between photos). If you compare this photo to the previous one, you’ll note that the train drifted (toward the bottom of the photo) against the background of the stars.
August 13th: Two meteors slide across the stars, one to the upper right of the gate, just below Orion’s belt, the other at the upper left of the photo. The meteor at the upper left is a ‘sporadic’ meteor – a meteor that’s not associated with the Perseid meteor shower.