2012 Lyrid Meteor Shower: A Look Back

Meadow In The Sky

I found myself at 3,500ft in elevation with crystal clear skies on Friday April 20th, 2012. Being “Park Week”, I had no choice but to visit a long time friend of mine; Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. With the forecast looking poor during the peak activity, I arrived a couple of days early to  maximize my chances at a clear night. The first night was clear, but the dew point was causing issues with creating tons of condensation, which formed on everything. Things got a little hairy at point when a black bear approached us at 11pm in the pitch dark. I didn’t realize he was there until I heard a stick break and then noticed the bear 50 feet away. He growled and made noises, but kept on moving towards the east with no issues at all.

Sunset was even a pleasant palette of pastel colors in the western skies facing West Virginia

Valley View

Shenandoah Celebrated it’s 75 year anniversary last year as I celebrated my 12th year there at the highest Point in the Park, Hawksbill Mountain

Self Portrait - Hawksbill Mountain

Rain water created tiny pools of water along the highest cliffs in the park

Cliff Water

The second night there wasn’t a problem with condensation forming on my gear because we had gusty winds near 40mph or higher along the ridge preventing that from happening. The sturdy tripod made all the difference this night taking the stronger winds. Keeping the tripod low to the ground increases the stability. A steady rain, followed by 6″ of snow blocked any chance of observations for the “peak night”.  But the night before offered some gorgeous views of the heavens.

2012 Lyrid Meteor

 

The TOP photo is featured on MSN Photo Blog.. Check it out here.  http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/27/11434037-looking-back-at-the-lyrids

2012 is a great year for meteor showers unlike 2011. The next “major shower” is May 4/5, but the full moon block out all but the brightest meteors.

 

 

2012 Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend!

A Lyrid meteor over the Presidential Range, NH

A Lyrid meteor over the Presidential Range, NH

The Lyrids are almost here! It’s been a long 3 months since there has been a meteor shower to write home about. This weekend the condition will be perfect! As long as you have clear skies, viewing these meteors won’t be hard at all. The shower will peak Saturday night April 21st into the morning hours of April 22nd. If you can pull an “all night ‘r”  I suggest you do it that night.. If the forecast isn’t looking good for your area,  try to view the shower the night before, there will still be meteors as the shower starts on the 16th and ending on the 24th of april.

Sky Chart

Sky Chart

I have seen and heard reports of some fireballs in the evening as the radiant breeches the horizon. Look for the bright fireballs between 8pm and 10pm.

Perseid Fireball over Kauai

Expect 15-20 meteors per hour. In years past, there have been records of the shower going crazy peaking  over 100 meteors per hour. We don’t know what it will be like this year until it’s over.  This year, I will be perched up into the mountains high above light pollution. I’m hoping for clear skies!

 Virginia Skies

Let me know if you see any!

(ATREX) Mission:Night Shinning Tracer Clouds over the East Coast, Thanks NASA!

(ATREX) Mission Chemical Tracers - March 27th, 2012 @ 5:13am

(ATREX) Mission : Chemical Tracers - March 27th, 2012 @ 5:13am

After weeks of delays from Mother Nature it happen….. 5 rockets in 5 minutes!  The launch began just before 5am starting a onslought of rockets and chemical trails in the upper most part of our atmosphere. I spent a lot of time driving around and staying up late at night the last couple of weeks, it all paid off this morning with a successful launch from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. I didn’t have the time this week like last week, so I couldn’t make another 400 mile roundtrip, over-nighter this week. I had some great spots less than 20  miles from the Wallops Flight Facility I “scouted” in earlier weeks…like the photo below.

ATREX Launch attempt Location 3

ATREX Launch attempt Location 3

On earlier launch attempts I had traveled hundreds of miles to get into great locations within 20 miles from Wallops Island. This was my “secret” spot that I had planned to photograph the launch from. If it wasn’t for a boat, I would have had it last Friday morning, but luck wasn’t on my side that night. Imagine this picture with  glowing eerie clouds piercing through  the sky in the early hours before dawn. I can’t help but to beat myself up, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I am just happy that I was able be a witness to the spectacle.  Here are some other shots from some failed attempts as well as a few more from this morning.

18 miles from Wallops Island, last Friday morning,

 ARTEX Dolphins

 It was a great ride the last 2 weeks and I can’t wait for another launch.. I hope next time NASA launches 12 rockets in 12 minutes! Keep your eyes to the sky, you never know what you may find. 

Cheers-

Keeping Your Head Up

Random Meteor - March 2012

Random Meteor - March 2012

I drove 3 hours, about (180 miles) to view the launch attempt at Wallops Flight facility in Virginia, Thursday night, March 22/23, 2012. Weather has been insane across much of the country, but this night seemed worth the trip. With clearing in the forecast, I left Pennsylvania around 8:45pm and arrived on Assateague Island National Seashore around midnight. The weather was perfect for the first 45 minute’s, then some clouds started to pass through. I really wanted this to happen after driving a good distance, but as the skies cleared another issue came up and the launch was cancelled. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but I made the best out of the trip. I continued to shoot through the night working on some personal projects. I started to see a few meteors  fall from the same location in the sky.  I ended up catching this falling star between the clouds in the early hours of Friday morning. Seeing a few meteors really made the trip worth it, and catching one on “film” made it even better. New meteor shower discovered?  The point is you can predict all you want, but there will always be unseen issues and surprises along the way, and you won’t know what they will be until you put yourself out there. I plan to capture the mega launch of 5 rockets in 5 minutes again this week.  The skies will be clear as weather patterns are shifting, bringing in a new wind. Lets hope that the ” planets will align” this week and give us what everyone has been waiting for!

2012 Meteor Shower Photo Tours now up!!

Tree of the Desert, August 2011.

Tree of the Desert, August 2011.

Hi Everyone!

I have just released my first two nighttime / meteor shower workshops for 2012. The First is the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower, our destination is Shenandoah Naitonal Park, in Virginia. The second, is the Orionid Meteor Shower in October 2012  at Acadia National Park, in Maine. 

More information can be found at my website                  www.jeffberkesphotography.com

Leonid Meteor Shower 2011 – “A Look Back”

A storm system sitting over the eastern US finally started to pull out as the sun began to set. After a 2 hour drive to a darker location, we were greeted by a two rounds of light pillars! I haven’t seen them in such a long time, so it was such a blessing. We counted many Leonids, a few Orionids and some random meteors. I also saw a Leonid Fireball around 4:20am that lit up the sky creating shadows and a smoke trail which lasted close to 45 seconds. It was an incredible night!

Pillars of Light

Light Pillars can easily be confused with the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), I think we can all see why.  A light pillar is an atmospheric phenomenon created by the reflection of light from fine ice crystals. The conditions on the ground and in the sky need to be in harmony for this to happen. I rarely get a opportunity to photograph these wonders and it was really neat.  Light Pollution is an enemy of mine, but here it kind of did me a photographic favor.

Leonid Meteor Shower 2011

As the front cleared the temperatures dropped into the 20’s! Winds were gusting to 30mph at times creating wind chills in the teens. We were out from 6pm until 6:30am attempting to capture some Leonids on camera. We succeeded too! Everyone got meteor shots! Todd got his first meteor within the first 10 minutes! It took me a little longer to get my first meteor and I’m fine with that :).  We counted a decent amount of meteors Thursday into Friday morning, but it was certainly lower than I thought it would be. The place I decided on worked out perfectly, the skies were crystal clear and we captured a few meteors on with our camera. With those three things working out I would call this year’s Leonid Meteor Shower Workshop a great success!

Below: The first time I saw this meteor was when I came home and looked through my photos. Surprise!!

Leonid Meteor at 5:43am - November 18th, 2011

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Thursday Night!

The Leonids are back!  Tomorrow night into Friday morning you can expect to see rates  between 20-50/hr. Some experts have said there could some a couple outbursts this year to around 200/hr , but that won’t favor the United States and with the moon, even worst. We are now reaching the winter months, it can get pretty cold out and clouds can dominate the landscape.  This year the moon will rise around midnight, but don’t let that keep you inside!  There will be plenty of time in the evening hours with darker skies for the first half of the shower. When the moon rises it will then  interfere with the meteor shower, but it won’t wash them all away. Leonid Fireballs are likely and I will be there when one falls.

Falling Star over Haleakala Crater - Maui, HI

 It’s going down into the 20’s tomorrow night where I live. Remember to dress warm! Bring gloves, insulated boots, blankets, hats, fluids, camping chairs, cameras, tripods and some snacks!  I would say meteor rates will be around 20 /hr with some sporadic bright fireballs. Let’s hope the weather is on my side!