Tonight was the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower. I gave it the old college try, but I had a few strikes against me from the start.
A) I’m not in a dark sky location – being in one of the world’s top twenty metropolitan areas means there’s a lot of light pollution.
B) It was partially cloudy, with drifting, scattered, high clouds.
C) A+B = clouds reflect back all of that light pollution
While I did get to see three bright Geminid meteors, I didn’t catch any on camera. I saw one long, slow burner that looked like fireworks sprinklers, plus two bright, thin, fast shooters that came out of Gemini, through Taurus, and into Cassiopeia. I also saw a couple of what I thought were flashes illuminating clouds, almost like lightning, but they were in my peripheral vision and gone, so I’m not sure if they were bright meteors or a byproduct of standing too long out in the cold.
What I did see were clouds,
(Orion on its side in the lower right, the “V” of Taurus at upper center, Cassiopeia at upper left)
and a plane
in a slightly different view, going right through Cassiopeia (the “M”-shaped constellation).
However, in trying to catch something, I shot a whole lot of pictures. (Surprise!) Most were either five-second exposures or ten-second exposures, depending on how close to a streetlight I was pointing and how close to the horizon where the light pollution was the worst.
I knew that by doing this for five and ten minutes at a time, shooting off one frame as soon as I heard the click of the camera (the remote control for the Canon DSLR is the best $15 I’ve spent in years), I was essentially shooting frames in a animated movie. There are guys who really, really do this well, and by “well” I mean “holy guacamole, Batman, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!’
I wasn’t doing it that well, but it was a good excuse to start playing around with GIMP and Photoshop when I got back home.
Jeez, I thought that it took a long time to process a couple hundred pictures into a panorama – rendering a video from 290 full-sized JPEG frames takes freakin’ forever! This is the small, fast, low-resolution MP4 version. The full-sized QuickTime version might be finished rendering by morning – Monday or Tuesday morning! We’ll see if I can get it up on the site here or not later.
In short, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade – when life hands you clouds, make time-lapse cloud videos!