Observing a Meteor Shower

During the late night of Saturday, May 24, 2014, a meteor shower was predicted to take place. Therefore, my dad and I decided to go observe the new meteor shower. Hearing about a RASC event earlier, we decided to go to Glen Major Park to observe the meteor shower.

Before we arrived there, we stopped at two other places. The first was a road off 16th Avenue. This area was where we had observed the skies in the past. However, for viewing the meteor shower, I didn’t think it was dark enough to view the night sky. My dad agreed with me. Therefore, we went further towards Glen Major Park. We next stopped in a field of grass. The sky was much clearer there. It made a world of difference being farther away from Markham. There, I saw a meteor flying by, and I saw another object. This object was streaking through the sky at a constant rate. It was a dim object. I believe it was a satellite. It was dim enough to be mixed into the stars, but I was able to see it. It was amazing to see it in skies that were light-polluted a few kilometres away. Despite the beautiful view, we decided to move forward to Glen Major Park.

We soon arrived in Glen Major Park in Clairmont. There, we heard the voices of other RASC members, who were enjoying the meteor shower that night. The sky was full of stars in the sky. I believe that it was dark enough to be able to clearly image the Milky Way. My dad and I, for a while, looked at the night sky to find any meteors shooting through the night sky. Then my dad pointed out that it is a darker sky and that M51 must be more visible now in the darker sky. He was right, and I decided to focus on imaging M51.

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I removed the DSLR Camera from the piggyback mount to the telescope using a t-adapter. We pointed it towards the handle of the big dipper. We then slewed the telescope to the area where M51 is.

We took a few images of that area. We couldn’t see it using Liveview, therefore we needed to take the long exposure images. After taking a few long exposure images, I looked at the images, and for some of those pictures, I saw two blurry objects close together. This led me to the conclusion that I had imaged M51. I was truly happy as I finally captured the most elusive Messier object I have ever seen. After capturing M51, I decided to take long exposure images of the night sky.

My dad suggested that I image Cassiopeia, which I did. The images were quite dim, but the camera was able to collect enough light to get a good image. However, unexpectedly, I saw a bright star moving fast across the sky. It was the ISS flying through the sky. It was amazing to see the ISS again moving so fast and so high across the sky. I was able to get a 30 second exposure image of it streaking through the sky. It was a beautiful sight.

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Eventually, it fell below the horizon and disappeared. We soon returned to imaging Cassiopeia. I was able to get four good images of Cassiopeia. It was spectacular.

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After those images, we noticed the rising crescent moon in the eastern sky. It was beautiful, especially when it was low in the horizon. I was able to image it, but there were too many clouds in the way. At that time of the day, the moon’s rising means that it was around 3-4 am. At that time, we decided to pack up the telescope, and head home.

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It was a wonderful night. We saw a lot and learned a lot more. Looking at the pictures, many turned out great, with the exception of the M51 images. I realized that they were actually stars that were warped when the camera shook during its capture. It was heartbreaking, but what could I do? The journey to find M51 still goes on. However, I was able to see many more objects in the sky with my dad. It was breathtaking and a great time.

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I advise anyone who is interested in viewing clear skies to go up to Glen Major Park or Long Sault Conservation Area for the best clear skies according to RASC. Good Luck and Happy Observing!

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