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.

 

 

(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!

WARNING! Sunset Sky Show Tonight!

Sunset Sky Show -  The Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Sunset Sky Show - The Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter

For the second night in a row we will be able to witness a Celestial Triangle in the western skies around sunset.  Tonight, (Feb. 26th, 2012)  the Moon and Jupiter will be near to each other with Venus shinning bright just below them. The clouds and 50 mph wind gusts last night worried me some,  but the weather worked out perfectly. The clouds actually added a little flavor to this photo.
 
 
 
Where should you look tonight?
 
Look to the west just after sunset and you will see the “trio” piercing the sunset colors.  The best time is to check it out is 15 – 30 minutes after sunset.  The ambient light is much lower making the objects really stand out.
 
 
 
**UPDATE**   –      February 26th, 2012   –   “THE REUNION”
 
I decided to head out again Sunday night for a follow up appointment with the celestial triangle. I did some time lapse photography and still last night. The video will be available shortly. Here is a photo from the “firepit” last night.  The exposure is a couple hours long. Note all of the air-traffic.
 
 
 
Firepit and Celestial Triangle

Space Shuttle Discovery’s Last Transit Over the United States

Photo of the Day: 3.10.2011

Discovery’s Final Transit  

3.8.2011  –  7:23:24pm to 7:25:49pm EDT.  Chester County, PA

It’s was upsetting to know that Tuesday night would be the last time to see the Space Shuttle Discovery in the night skies over my town. I was 4 years old when Discovery first launched in 1984 and it’s sad to see something I’ve known for so many years retire. I have only seen it once in person when I was very young, but yet there was something about that visit to the Kennedy Space Center that inspired me. I can still picture clearly the Discovery being slowly rolled out to the launch site as a kid in the 80’s and I feel very fortunate to be able to photograph its final transit last night. The clouds parted briefly allowing me the two minutes I needed for this shot. I think the clouds added some interesting colors to the image and the crescent moon was a special bonus on a special night. The space shuttle Discovery and the ISS sweeping by the Pleiades with the hanging crescent moon and moon corona setting in the west. You can’t beat that for a farewell to almost three decades of service and 39 missions under the belt. Hope you enjoy this image as much as I enjoy creating it.

 Thanks Discovery! You will be missed!