I love long winter nights! There is something about the brisk air and dark skies that draws me out to look up. It is fun to explore the stars and try to find constellations and other night sky objects.
The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of my favorites. This year, the peak was the night of December 13th. I was not terribly enthusiastic to brave the below freezing temperatures this year, for some reason. At the same time, I had my camera ready per usual instinct and preparedness. Plan for the worst and hope for the best, as they say.
I was talking with a friend about the meteor shower while still inside the warm and cozy house. There was some uncertainty with the weather forecast with snow and clouds potentially blocking the view. This added to my uncertainty of heading out into the cold night with my camera. I stepped outside and set up the camera with some minor persuasion from my friend.
There were some thin, high clouds partially obscuring the sky. I thought, great, here goes the show, again. A fairly large hole, in the clouds, was directly above me. The night was young. What did I have to lose? I setup my camera and took some test shots to check exposure and focus. The good thing about high, thin clouds is the stars still shine through. They can also aid in creating better viewing conditions, somewhat like atmospheric dust mops for an analogy.
The clouds built up closing off the sky, then cleared. It appeared to be trending toward a nice night, minus the below freezing temperatures and slight wind chill. At one point when I checked the weather station, it was reporting “feels like 11 (degrees Fahrenheit).” I was bundled up fairly well, but my finger tips had to be exposed every time I made an adjustment to the camera equipment. The chill was relieved fairly quickly with my mittens and covering up my hands inside some of the layers of clothes.
I started getting into a grove of spotting meteors. The longer the eyes have to adjust to darkness the better they see. It takes about thirty minutes for full night vision to kick in. I had my camera pointed at the Orion constellation in hopes a meteor would streak through the frame during the exposure. It is hit or miss whether the exposure actually captures a meteor since it has to be inside the angle of view of the lens and the shutter has to be open.
The night wore on, and the skies continued to clear revealing more open area where meteors were flashing by. It was an awesome night. In between making adjustments to the camera, I would lay down on my back and stare up into the vast space above me. There goes another meteor shooting overhead! Wow! That one had to be in the frame, and the shutter was open! I could not contain my enthusiasm a few times. I had to remember it was the middle of the night.
At the end of the night, I had tallied over 250 meteors viewed. The camera had captured sequences of photos with many containing meteor streaks through them. It was an amazing night! I thought I fared well, although a couple of my toes had gone numb by the time I went back inside. That can be expected even with the best preparedness. Cold can still seep through insulated layers given enough time.
Going against my attitude of wanting to stay in the warm, cozy house was worth every moment. My numb toes warmed up and are fine. The 2018 Geminid Meteor Shower turned into my best one yet! It was a long, magical winter night under the stars.