Thursday, August 7, 2008

Iridium Flares and The Perseid Meteor Shower


The above image shows an Iridium Flare. What is an Iridium flare you may ask? Well, it's kind of like a communication satellite gone wild. The Iridium's are a group of satellites use for satellite mobile phones. As the Iridiums are crossing the night sky they look like a regular faint spot moving slowly across the sky, but these satellites have 3 main highly reflective antennas and depending on where the Sun is and how they are orientated in the sky can reflect the Sunlight, just for an instant while the Sun is in the sweet spot on the antennas making the satellite appear much brighter to the observer on Earth, they are often mistaken for meteors. The cool thing about Iridium flares is they can be predicted, just go to Heavens Above web site, input your Latitude and Longitude, you can find these numbers for your area here, go to the iridium flare section and it will give you the next time and location in your sky a flare will occur, they're kind of like meteors on a schedule.

August is a great month for the Milky Way, it is at it's highest and best location for viewing and imaging, hence I have taken some more images. I took the image above at our Royal Astronomical Society Of Canada's dark site on their tracking mount, the image is 2.5 minutes at ISO 1250.

The above image of the Milky Way complete with meteor was taken on my tripod, 1 minute exposure at ISO 3200, get out and enjoy the Milky Way while you still can, we loose it's beauty over the winter months as it is high over head and is washed out by our Sun's glare.

Although the upcoming Perseid meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours of August 12, there are quite few rouge ones showing up when you least expect them as we are now entering the debris field left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The image above is a Perseid meteor I took last night. They will be easy to find, just look to the NE between Cassiopeia and Perseus about an hour after Sunset for the show to start, they say to expect to see one every few minutes to start with and as the night progresses into morning up to 2 a minute should appear.

I'll leave you now with a clip I put together of the , you guessed it the Milky Way, took 60 images over a time span of an hour and a half and stitched them together, love how the clouds roll away as the night rolls in.


35 comments:

Sherer said...

Iridium Flare - never heard of it, thanks for the explaining things in your normal - intelligent yet hilarious method. Very beautiful Milky Way pics i must add

chanpheng said...

I always wondered what Iridium flares were; now I've learned something new today. Thanks.

Carole said...

loved the video. images are fab.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

I've never heard of Iridium flare either, Bob. Cool. This reminded me of something I saw a few years ago in a dusky sky but couldn't figure out. I looked up and saw one large yellow oval type shape moving at a fast speed, but then two smaller bright spots dropped out of it on the left hand side and sped off in the opposite direction. I suppose it could have been a satellite gone wild.

Super photos. Always love seeing the Milky Way and hope to watch the Perseids for the swimming pool. :D

Blessings! JJ

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

from the swimming pool...not awake yet.

Blessings, Nancy

Two Feathers said...

Iridium flares... interesting. I hadn't ever heard of them before.

I just love the milky way pictures. I grew up in Ecuador, in the middle of the amazon rainforest - and as you can imagine, with no city lights to pollute the night sky, it was just spectacular. The milky way was so vivid and seemed so close.

I don't know how much of a difference there is when you see it from the equator as opposed to North America, but now when I see it in my own night sky, it seems a pale imitation of what it could be.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks a lot Jesse, I know you had requested more shots of the Milky Way, be careful what you ask for,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks and thanks for dropping by chanpheng, glad you learned about Iridiums here.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Carole,glad you enjoyed the shots, thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks JJ,lol, JJ I think you saw an alien spacecraft, with baby ones being the scout ships,lol, and I suppose you could watch the Perseids for the swimming pool as well,lol, good luck with the meteors, calling for rain so far here.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Shirley, wow, I would love to see the Cosmos from the south, there are constellations and deep sky objects that are too far South for us to see up North that you would be able to see down there, like the large and small magellanic clouds, which are big and beautiful sister galaxies.

As far as the Milky Way you would see more of the southern portion, beautiful in any hemisphere.\m/

The Supplicant said...

This is just way too cool Bob. Love the shots. You've got the exposures down pat. Once of my favourite past times is sitting in lawnchairs looking up into a crystal clear night at the milky way in the month of Aug (less bugs). Thanks for the input on the flares. I'll be certainly testing the info out and using to my advantage :-)
Take care.

~JD
I've been on vacation hence the scarcity. Alas only two more days to go.

A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
1st Lady said...

Meteors on a schedule? That's just fantastic. I've been ignoring the nights sky this last week, apart from noticing how clear and sharp the moon has been. Tonight I'll go out and see what I can see :)

Bob Johnson said...

Ouch JD, last 2 days of your vacation , enjoy them while you can, thanks for your comment, the Milky Way in August, it's the best.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks 1st lady, good luck with the night sky, look to the NE you will probably see the odd Perseid, we have cloudy skies here, and is not looking too good for the shower.:-( :(

Andrerw said...

Beautiful shots of the MW!.We have pretty much only had one good night to observe since the summer solstice.We have clear skies at the moment but,I see clouds rolling in once again...booooo!!!!.Iridium flares are cool to see,although it has bee quite some time since I have seen one.As for the Milkyway...living in the middle of town makes it tough although,I DID see some dust lanes a couple weeks ago.I need to travel up north to a good friends house to see it in it's full glory.Last time I saw it was last year and that was the fist time I had seen it in almost 20 years.Sad but true :( !.

Speedcat Hollydale said...

This is such an interesting blog. You have really sparked my interest in the beautiful sights and mysteries of space.
Iridium flares? New to me ... I will have to check out the Heavens above link. Getting out my lawn chairs :-)

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Andrew, you have to get out of the city on a clear Moonless night, which I might add doesn't happen that often, we have been very lucky lately so I have been out taking advantage of the situation.\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks speedcat, if you can get out Monday night Tuesday morning to see the Perseid Meteor Shower, should be a good one, thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Roger said...

Those are awesome Bob, you always put on a good show!

You should join my Creative Photography contest!

Ruth said...

You are way too good to us.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Roger, I am thinking very seriously of putting something in, you have such fine artists entering stuff.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, thanks Ruth,\m/\m/

kml said...

Bob - I have never heard about those flares - I would have thought they were meteors if I had seen them. Your Milky Ways are gorgeous!

Bob Johnson said...

Hey thanks kthy, glad you like them.\m/

Marvin the Martian said...

Who owns Iridium, these days? Didn't the Navy buy it, and try to sell it, or something? Can't remember. I used to watch satellites from my backyard in Denver - around 10 PM, they'd catch the sunlight while all else around them was dark. Very fun. I haven't tried to watch satellites in FL but I should.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol marvin, they initially were going to have 77 satellites the atomic number for iridium there fore the name, just an interesting side note, good luck with the hunting.

Jerry said...

Tonight I saw two "flares" just below the W of Cassiopeia A tonight around 7:30PM Maui time. No motion, just two -3 or so lights that waned over about a minute or so. I am used to the motion of planes and satellites. These were static. At first I thought it was Jupiter and another bright planet. No Iridium flares scheduled and there was no noticeable streak. Any thoughts?

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