Thursday, August 16, 2012



The following report was written 4 days ago, on the 12th of August, but this morning I was once again awake early and as I stepped out side and was once again struck by the starry sky, I grabbed my binoculars and saw something even more amazing. This led to my setting up my tripod and shooting for about two hours. Even this morning I saw several meteors to my great delight, but they seemed to bracket my long exposures, so none of them was recorded. Pictures follow.

I woke up at about 4:45 this morning, [August 12, 2012] sleep interrupted, achy, tired...

Wanting to get some space and to try to loosen up a bit, I grabbed a large glass of water, lit a cigarette and stepped out on my porch to take in the quiet and the night sky.

The first thing I noticed was a beautiful crescent moon, and the brilliant spot that I knew to be a planet above and another below. As my eyes adjusted, I could see a mostly clear sky, a few wisps of cloud stuff, though there was also enough local ground based light that only the brightest stars were discernible. And there is one little patch above and a bit to the right of the moon that I can barely get an idea of seeing that hints at a cluster of stars. Seems to be just on the limits of my receptors and it drives me crazy trying to see it and wondering what it is.

I sat on the top of my ramp and enjoyed the quiet and the view. After a moment, I remembered that there was a meteor shower due on August 12 and 13, today and tomorrow, and I wasn't sure if that included the early hours of the 12th or the late. But on the chance that it might be happening now, and knowing quite often the very early hours are the time to view, I took occasional searching views of the entire sky, including straight above me, not a natural or comfortable position for the neck, so even though I suspected that was the most likely area where any might appear- if they were to appear- I couldn't hold it for very long at a time.

I sat there for about 15 minutes without seeing anything more remarkable than what  I have already described, but then, just as I happened to glance straight up, as if timed for me, a brilliant streak raced across the sky directly in my sight; it vanished so quickly that I wasn't even sure I had seen it.

Unlike what one sees portrayed in movies, the streak of a meteor is an almost instantaneous phenomenon- there is no time to even cry out, "Look!"

Encouraged by this suspected sighting- if it actually had happened- I decided to remain in place for a while longer, and between glances at the moon and planets as I watched their elevating position above the tops of the pine trees in my yard, and hanging my head in an effort to stretch out tight neck muscles, I would glance straight up for a bit. Maybe another 15 minutes had passed when I caught my second sighting, surprising me, as I happened to glance to my south and again it appeared right in my line of sight, maybe 30 degrees above the tree lined horizon across the street.

A few minutes later, the most remarkable, and 'wish I had a camera capable of catching such a phenomenon' view, the largest streak of the three occurred just over the glowing crescent moon.

I returned to bed.

Above, I refer to " little patch above and a bit to the right of the moon that I can barely get an idea of seeing that hints at a cluster of stars." and it was this that I saw through the binoculars this morning and determined to get a shot of.

Note also that in the pictures, 1 minute exposures on my Lumix FZ35 on Starry Sky setting, many  more stars are visible than I could make out with my old eyes.

Here is the big view, looking directly east from my back porch. Note the two planets, and in line and above them near the top of the image, that frustrating patch of light.
 Cropped in to show only the top planet and the bothersome patch, which again, shows here much clearer than to my naked eye.
 Here, I have cropped way in and enlarged to show as best I can what is actually making up that patch the so intrigued me. There are 6 "bright" stars and several more lessor ones in the group. The others all around didn't show at all to my unaided eye. In fact, even the "bright" ones were barely hints of something to my unaided eye, not really seen.
And to end off, a nice portrait of Orion lying on its side atop one of my trees as sunrise begins to hint at its arrival.



The night sky has always amazed me and we can see it so well since we are so far out of town. Don't forget about the Blue Moon the end of the month. Hope you are feeling better today. Take care.
Oh, boy, I wish our skies were dark enough to see such stars! Too much light pollution here near D.C. Thanks for the pictures!

Sandra here in Northern VA
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