Thursday, January 16, 2014

Meteor Shower from Comet ISON?

Meteor Shower from Comet ISON?*
Robert Lunsford of the  recently posted details on a possible meteor shower from Comet ISON passing near the earth's orbit on its way towards its rendezvous with the sun.  I had heard that the earth could reach the debris in the January 12 -15 time frame, so I went out early on 3 mornings to see what I could pick up.  I've condensed hundreds of photos from those nights into the HD video below.  

As illustrated in a diagram on Robert's post here, the incoming meteors were expected to appear to radiate out from a point in the constellation Leo:
Meteor Activity from Comet ISON?

Meteor trails look longer away form a meteor shower's radiant point though, so the first two nights I shot north to minimize star movement and northeast in case the movement of the earth through space caused extra collisions with comet dust to the east.  On the third night I trained my 24mm lens on Leo and I used a sky-tracking mount to follow the constellation while shooting almost continuously for hours.  I did capture a bright and colorful meteor trail:

Unfortunately its length and direction, along with a second meteor captured 10 minutes earlier, implies that its radiant point was across the sky near the Big Dipper, so those were more likely to be late arrivals from the Quadrantid meteor shower which peaked on January 3.

So did I catch any meteors from ISON?  I swear that I can see little flashes in my original images as they were getting down-converted in resolution to video, but it's hard to peer into 22 megapixel images to detect the smallest details on a 2 megapixel monitor.   Even my video gets compressed for re-broadcast from video hosting sites, so it's even harder to show others what I captured.  The question might not be definitively answered until I re-examine the results some time from now when I can re-process the images in "4K" video format and can view the 4X higher resolution video on a 4K monitor (4096 or 3840 resolution).

The increasing brightness of the moon and its later rise times started interfering with meteor viewing on the third night, so I decided not to shoot on the fourth night.  I've shot dozens of meteor showers in the past, but this time I was particularly focused on trying to capture the faintest of meteors, so it was good to "push the envelope" and develop new insight and techniques which can fine tune my meteor shower shooting in the future.

Here's another shot of that meteor, with room to see Leo just to the right:

To see more of my time-lapse videos from more major meteor showers, drop by my  channel: