August 13th, 2023, 03:30 a.m. to 04:50 a.m. local time
If there was a theme to my early morning observations this year, it was “space junk.”
Space junk, as in effectively ideal conditions were soiled by the incessant amount of satellites that come and go from all directions. They are not continuous, but enough to be annoying. Thankfully, no planes flew at this hour. But here was a pleasant, dry (few mosquitoes), 65 degrees Fahrenheit 3:30 a.m. with clear skies and no wind, which made me nearly forget the absurd light pollution in my area. I was ready for an hour of enjoying meteor hunting, yet it was more about playing spot-the-satellite.
Despite this latest man-made calamity, I carried on, to what may have been my best Perseid observations so far. I affirmatively spotted seven streaks of light pushing away from the shower’s origin around the Constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus. Besides those, I likely glimpsed another half dozen movements out of the corner of my eye.
Photography-wise, I debated between using my DSLR camera in “no bulb” mode or my iPhone with NightCap leveraging its Meteor Mode. I opted for the latter with my newer iPhone 14 Pro having not been used yet for a real meteor event.
(Yes, I could have set up both, but time is limited and precious these days, as shown by my lack of article writing for the past several months.)
I allowed NightCap on the iPhone, on my normal tripod and pointed nearly straight up, to run continuously for over an hour, with only one stopped at the 30-minute mark to survey the results. NightCap’s Meteor Mode is supposed to continually erase its temporary images as it creates longer exposures with possible meteor activity. After one hour and 20 minutes, 96 images were stored in my phone.
Back to the space junk theme, most images showed nothing but stars and some satellite trails, the latter provable by their linear trajectory in sequential photos. However, one image did appear to capture a genuine meteor aligned with the shower’s point of origin in the sky:
I know the stars are difficult to see. The bright dot in the lower left is a cameo by planet Jupiter. Here is the same image with approximate labels:
The satellite problem notwithstanding, the final results were a mild success, especially since I witnessed at least seven meteors with my own eyes in that predawn hour.
For reference, I also saw the late Waning Crescent Moon rising in the Northeast after 3:30 a.m. It was too low through my trees to attempt any sort of reasonable photography.
- iPhone 14 Pro
- NightCap App on iPhone in “Meteor Mode”
Thank you for reading my article. Donec deinde tempum.