2014-12-14

Geminid Night (with more than just Geminids)

Last night was Geminid peak night - and although I am currently located deep south (Chilean Patagonia, 47° latitude), I was hoping for a good show. The constellation of Gemini never rises high over the horizon here, this reduces hour rates but should compensate with some nice earth grazers.


The night was short (we're close to summer solstice here), and high clouds and moonlight hindered my observations, but I managed to see about eight or nine Geminids grazing Earth's atmosphere moving slowly from North to South, some of them disintegrating while they traversed great parts of the sky. Unfortunately, none of them was really bright, I think the brightest one hardly reached 1st magnitude. Consequently, my camera, equipped with a 8mm fisheye lens, recorded none of them.

Interestingly, I witnessed far more other meteors and satellites than Geminids. The brightest moving object recorded on my images looks like a satellite flare:

Not a Geminid but a satellite flare (60sec exposure, 8mm f/5.6, ISO6400)
Fortunately there is more to see in the night sky than burning space dust. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is currently passing through constellation Puppis and rises high in the morning. I had no trouble finding it with 10x50 binoculars, in fact, is was easily visible as a bright fuzzy ball of light. My 3" scope showed little more, but a tail I did not spot. Even with moonlight interference, I could see the comet naked eye without averted vision.  C/2014 Q2 is a naked eye object - I estimate its brightness to be 6mag or brighter.

Lovejoy should become even brighter until January 2015 - and will be visible on the northern hemisphere as well.

Later that morning I threw a glace on Jupiter, which is bright in the morning sky right now. With favorable seeing conditions, I had no trouble spotting Ganymede's shadow just between the planet's equatorial belts with my 3" refracting scope at 100x.

Finally, I concluded this short summer night with some scenery shots. There was no wind at all (a rare occasion here in Patagonia), so the nearby lake, which is actually a river, was perfectly still, mirroring shoreline, stars and moon. Unfortunately no Geminid showed up to make the perfect image. I regret nothing.

A mirror for the sky (10sec, ISO 1600, 17mm, f/2.8)


The Southern Cross and the Southern Pointer Stars (α and β Centauri)
A mirror for the Sky - Rio Cochrane in Southern Chile.

Without the moon and in the absence of light pollution, the clouds were invisible!

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