8/12/12: ISS and Perseid Meteor* over Loveland Pass

Finally getting a clear night up here in Summit County, I spent an hour on top of Loveland Pass tonight photographing the deep sky, trying to get the tail end (no pun intended) of the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked last night. One of the better meteors I captured happened to be in the field of view (top left center) as the International Space Station passed into the earth’s shadow low on the horizon, somewhere over southern Canada (the Andromeda Galaxy is also visible at center right, a hazy disk). Below the full image are a couple of 2:1 crops showing the detail of each. [*The time-lapse video added to end of this post led to the conclusion that it is not a meteor, but the Envisat satellite passing overhead; see below.]

 

ISS and Meteor over Loveland Pass, CO

The International Space Station passes into the earth’s shadow, and a Perseid Meteor is captured over Loveland Pass, CO on 8/12/12 at 2238 hrs MDT (Canon 5D MkIII w/EF 16-35/2.8L II lens, 30 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 3200).

 

2:1 crop of ISS over Loveland Pass, CO.

2:1 crop of ISS passing from left to right into the earth’s shadow over Loveland Pass, CO.

 

Screenshot from Satellite Tracker, showing the ISS’s passage on the northern horizon:

Satellite Tracker app, ISS 8/12/12 2238 hrs MDT

Satellite Tracker app, ISS 8/12/12 2238 hrs MDT

 

2:1 crop of Perseid Meteor over Loveland Pass, CO

2:1 crop of Envisat satellite flare over Loveland Pass, CO

 

Andromeda Galaxy

2:1 crop of Andromeda Galaxy

 

And an overhead shot of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the best meteor of the night:

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor over Loveland Pass, CO.

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor (with not-unusual green tail) over Loveland Pass, CO (full frame image, Canon 5D MkIII and EF 16-25/2.8L II).

 

And a 1:3 crop of the meteor traversing along the axis of the Milky Way galaxy; note the characteristic green tail of the meteor, indicative of the ionization of the particular element making up the meteor:

Perseid Meteor 8/12/12, Loveland Pass, CO

1:3 crop of Perseid Meteor on 8/12/12, Loveland Pass, CO [©2012 Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC]

 

After assembling 12.5 minutes of time-lapse video (at 6 FPS), it became obvious that what I first thought was a meteor was actually an additional satellite passing overhead (Envisat, the largest earth observation satellite as of 2006). The main image at the top shows Envisat ‘flaring’, a result of its solar panels reflecting the sun more directly toward the viewing location. If you look closely, you can see Envisat disappear toward the horizon (from top to bottom, center-left) over the course of a few frames; it was visible for approximately 3 minutes. The ISS is obvious enough passing low over the horizon from left to right, disappearing into the earth’s shadow midway through the video:

 

Lastly, a quick screenshot from the SolarWalk app, showing the passage of ISS and Envisat overhead Denver:

SolarWalk app screenshot, ISS 8/12/12 2238 hrs MDT

SolarWalk app, ISS 8/12/12 2238 hrs MDT

6 Comments

  1. Evan August 13, 2012 at 08:03 #

    Awesome shots! What was the exposure length for these? I had a clear and dark night here to finally do some ghetto-rigged sky tests with my new camera (no tripod yet). Would definitely like to get some pointers on shooting the sky.

    • Jeff Warner August 13, 2012 at 11:29 #

      Hey Evan, glad it inspired you. I added some exposure info into a few captions, and I’ll email you with details. Be sure to check out the time-lapse I added this morning…

  2. Harriette August 13, 2012 at 08:24 #

    Beautiful!

  3. Jess "Photon" August 13, 2012 at 19:41 #

    Great stuff Jeff! Thanks for linking to this from Fred Miranda forum.

    • Jeff Warner August 13, 2012 at 20:47 #

      No problem, Jess, glad you enjoyed!

  4. Rashna Singh August 15, 2012 at 11:33 #

    Stunning pictures, Jeff. Thank you for the reminder of the beauty out there, despite the ugliness that often erupts on earth.