18 Nov 2001 Leonids Meteor shower
as seen in Hope Valley, California

(a side-gallery to the Two Hundred Fifty Pixels Wide exhibition)
© 2001-2017 David Whittemore

yeah, so.. if you didn't make it to a dark place, or if you slept through it, too bad.

this year's Leonids Meteor shower at times qualified as a Meteor Storm (1000 per hour). this was the best such event since 1966 and will remain so until 2099. so, take your vitamins.

there were peaks of a couple meteors per second at around 2:30am PST. unfortunately, they were spread out over the sky, so no single photo could ever capture the true sense of the event.

a couple of the fireballs were so bright that they lit up the ground. literally. in some pictures, you will see the smokey remains lingering in the sky.

since our eyes are far more sensitive than the film/exposure used, there were probably 5 to 10 times more activity in-person than what showed up on film. that said... here are the 8 best pictures captured out of a single roll of 24.. all "full image" links give you a 2000-pixel (~300Kb) image. enjoy.

(i used a tripod with no motor drive. so the curved streaks are stars - the straight/cross-grain streaks are the meteors - duh)


detail image
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a very short exposure (3 minutes), hence the graininess. but lots of meteors in this short period.

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note the smoke trail drifting off the head of the meteor. about a 10 minute exposure.

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nice bright meteor. see how it burned up and left forked trails of smoke. about a 10 minute exposure.

full image
this one's full-frame because it has lots of activity. 15 minute exposure facing south. the big bright thing in the center would be the milky way. it was quite prominent - even to the naked eye. ahhh 7000 foot elevations...

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several short meteors low on the southern horizon. 20 minute exposure.

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big fireball on the western horizon. 10 minute exposure.

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nice fireball detail with trees as reference. some camera jiggle before i realised that my standing on the boulder where the tripod was and jumping up and down to keep warm was probably not a smart idea..

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the last image i took before going to sleep. western horizon, probably a one hour exposure (i woke up near dawn to end the exposure). only the brightest meteors show up. that one on the right must have been a doosie.

notes

all images taken between 1am and 5am, 18 Nov 2001 using nikon FM2n with a 24mm lens at f2.8 and kodak 800 ISO color film.

this was my first attempt at astrophotography. things i learned:

  1. always use the "hat trick" when opening and closing the shot.
  2. don't skimp on time-release cables: they're hard to re-assemble when it is 20 degrees out.
  3. shorter exposures are probably better than longer exposures because they let you take more pictures.
  4. cheap photofinishing SUCKS. note how all the full images are brighter in the center - this is due to the 1 hour photo "developer in a box" using super cheap enlarger lenses which don't evenly cover the film!
  5. this was a very rare event - i'm glad i went to the trouble to travel a couple of hours.

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try yr luck!