Like two trains passing in the night… a year apart

By Phil Plait | October 13, 2012 7:00 am

Randy Halverson is no stranger to the BABlog: his astrophotography is fantastic, and his time lapse videos stunning.

Last year, in early October, he was taking frames of the night sky for a time lapse video when he caught a bright meteor that left what’s called a persistent train: a trail that continues to glow for several minutes. He sent me a note about it, and I wound up writing a blog post about this relatively rare event.

OK, cool enough, But then, just a few days ago, he emailed me again: while out filming at the same exact location, he saw another meteor that also left a persistent train, almost exactly a year after the first one! It’s a funny coincidence.

Here’s the new shot:

[Click to ablatenate.]

This picture was taken in central South Dakota. The Milky Way dominates the dark sky here, and the trees provide a nice silhouetted foreground.

You can compare it to last year’s meteor here. Given the Milky Way in the frame, he was facing south to take these, and the more recent shot was taken later in the night, since the galaxy had rotated a bit compared in last year’s picture. If I were really nitpicky I could probably even calculate just how much later in the night it was using the angle of the Milky Way. To my eye it looks like about an hour.

Anyway, both meteors were probably what we call sporadic: just random bits of rock orbiting the Sun that had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case though one meteor’s poison is another man’s meat. It was too bad for those interplanetary bits of flotsam, but very nice for Randy and for all of us… twice.

Image credit: Randy Halverson, used by permission.

Related Posts:

Raging clouds, near and very, very far
The Milky Way and the Mashed Potatoes Mountain
Temporal Distortion
Reflecting on the ISS
Another jaw-dropping time lapse video: Tempest
Gorgeous Milky Way time lapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (11)

Links to this Post

  1. Meteor Persistent Train – 2012 | October 23, 2012
  1. Nice estimate on the time Phil, it was 1 hour and 2 minutes later, according to the cameras time.

  2., bottom quarter. October 2012 has been a big harvest of new near-Earth objects. Perhaps we’re passing tkrough a debris orbit. At 20-40 meters diameter they would make a very nice atmospheric entry, with recoverable meteorites doing not too much ground damage.

  3. Chip

    Just for fun – meteors from the 1950s:


  4. Cool! Then hot. Then cool again :)
    Is it possible that there’s a small unknown meteor stream that the Earth passes through this time every year?

  5. Bill Gresho

    An artistic expression of our local universe, our own galaxy, the Milky Way and the beauty that can be seen in it from our tiny spec of a planet. From in of all places, South Dakota. There is more than farm land out there. The Mad, Bad Astronomer also adds a few technical details. At first I thought he was going to get into Special Relativity.

  6. Jeff S.

    excellent meteor shot, I’ll add to my links which I show to students during lecture/online classes. The students absolutely love Phil’s blog , he has a knack for getting the best skinny on the news of the day in our field; plus I do appreciate his love for Earth Science , which I am blessed to also teach.

  7. Curtis K

    Is there a bit of software that can make time lapse video out of stills? Thanks.

  8. hhEb09'1

    @Joseph G
    The Draconids occur in early October each year, their radiant is the head of Draco up near the North Star but they could occur elsewhere

  9. Matt B.

    @5 Joseph G – These two meteors were going in very different directions, so they couldn’t be part of the same meteor stream. But here’s a thought: It would be really cool if two meteor streams crossed Earth’s orbit at the same point, wouldn’t it?


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