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16th August 2010


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The photo of a fireball meteor over Ross that I took last Tuesday evening sparked a lot of interest in the Perseid meteor shower - a natural phenomenon which occurs every August as, during it's annual orbit of the sun, the Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by comet, Hale-Bopp.

Now that the Perseids are all but faded completely for another year, for those interested, some more of the photos of meteors I took over the past week can be seen below. I did film rather than just photograph, and in true high definition (RAW image) resolution. The footage (although it only contains 19 meteors) is truly superb but I have decided to hang onto it for a 'Wye Valley Starscapes' film, planned for the coming months.

ALL of the meteor photographs below were taken using exactly the same camera settings and using the same lens, most showing average to bright meteors. If you compare the photo of Tuesday's fireball (which can be downloaded as a 5 meg jpeg here) with the usual bright ones, you may get an idea of how truly bright the fireball was.

Some information on comet Hale-Bopp and a photo of it over Ross in 1997 below the meteor photos >>>

An average brightness meteor - shot at Brampton Abbotts on Tuesday, 10th August 2010.

Near the horizon, an average meteor shot from Yat Rock on Thursday, 12th August - the peak night for this year's Perseids.

Shot from Yat Rock on Thursday, this photo shows both a meteor and a passing aircraft (left object).

A bright meteor on peak night from Yat Rock.

This image captured 2 meteors which fell within the 10 second exposure and the trail of a satellite passing overhead.

Bright meteor on the left horizon where I was standing with Mike Arnison, on Yat Rock photographing the peak.

An average brightness meteor near the right trunk of the tree on Yat Rock.

A slightly less bright 'fireball' type meteor, which I caught through the leaves of the tree.

This meteor was a true fireball, which I caught at Brampton Abbotts on Tuesday. You can spot the difference here between a 'fireball' and a 'bright' meteor, and indeed the brightness of all meteors shown above. All of the my photos this year were taken using EXACTLY the same exposure - 10 seconds at f2.8 - ISO 3200.

Comet Hale-Bopp, which was brightly visible in the sky back in 1997 (see picture below) most likely made its previous closest approach to the sun 4,200 years ago. Its orbit is almost perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, which ensures that close approaches to planets are rare. However, in April 1996 the comet passed within 0.77 AU (Astronomical Units - 93 million miles) of Jupiter - a close enough approach for its orbit to be affected by the planet's gravity. The comet's orbit was shortened considerably by this close approach to an orbital period of roughly 2,533 years, and it will next return to the inner solar system and Earth around the year 4385. At its greatest distance from the sun, it will be will be about 370 AU distant, reduced from the previous 525 AU before its encounter with Jupiter.

In other words... don't expect to see it again unless you own a time machine or live to be two and a half thousand years old.

A photo I took of comet Hale-Bopp over Ross in 1997.
The trail is due to the long exposure - I didn't have the means to track the object across the sky back in those days.
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