Rare Encounter on Lyrid Meteor Night

A Meteor Crashes the Party

It’s rare to take a photograph with a meteor in it.  We can increase the chances of it happening when we do time exposures with SLR cameras pointing to large areas of the night.  Indeed one of the fun things to do in amateur astronomy is to point our SLR cameras towards the night sky on the night of a known meteor shower and leave the lens open for say, 10-15 minutes at a time.

Perseid Meteor taken by James W. Young. Similar to the one I took and will be added here later.

I was lucky in 1984 when I pointed two SLR cameras at a dark Twenty Nine Palms, California sky and caught three meteors. I shot 52 film images over the course of the night. Two of the meteors images were not well placed in the frame, just catching corners of the film and not very photogenic so to speak. But one was spectacular as it showed color and pulses (little explosions near the head). That image was published in Sky & Telescope and will be added to this website when I next go out to my observatory and scan the image of it hanging on my observatory wall.

Last weekend was the Lyrid Meteor shower and I caught the VERY rare meteor image you see at the top of this page. Not a meteor captured in a frame scores of degrees across, but a beautifully placed meteor framed in a one minute wide area of space. Not only that, it was a dramatic shot seemingly diving through the heart of a galaxy (NGC4302) while a fearful NGC 4298 and M99 looked on in horror.

Well I’m are just having a bit of fun of course. The meteor was plunging into earth’s atmosphere right on our doorstep, while the stars in the image were hundreds and more light years away (but in our own galaxy). The three galaxies are  60 million light-years and more away.

But such a dramatic shot and so well placed in the frame AND it was taken in a 10 second exposure, not a lengthy exposure like you will have when TRYING to capture meteors on film.

The bad part of the photo is that it was ten second first exposure in process of focusing the camera for the night’s imaging. The image is out of focus with bloated stars. How rude of that meteor to make its rare appearance before I got the camera in focus. Much like those blurred UFO, Loch Ness monster, and Big Foot images some people take?


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