Look Up - Perseid Meteor Shower / by Michael Rennie

The Perseid Meteor shower is one of the most reliable and spectacular annual astrological events that can see in the northern hemisphere, excitingly, I found out last night we can see it right on our door stop here in Fife! It peaks every year around this time ( July 17 to Aug. 24 this year) as the earth passes through the trail of dust left behind the Comet Swift-Tuttle, one of the largest objects to regularly pass close to planet earth.

The peak of the meteor activity was forecast around the 11th of August but with clear skies and an early moonset on the 8th, it seemed like a good opportunity to spot a few meteors. I needed dark skies with a view North East to see the constellation Perseus and didn't want to drive for hours so decided to try Tentsmuir forest. I was also scared to go out on my own into the woods, so called my friend Adam to use as zombie bait ;)

Adam testing out the DD Hammocks for comfort..... getting into a hammock isn't as easy as you might imagine as Adam will attest!

Parking at the East end of Tayport and walking 10 minutes to the edge of the woods, we found a good spot for our hammock, with a good view of the sky and not too much light pollution. Even though the sun set around 9 PM it wouldn't be until after 11 before the stars were really visible.

To pass a bit of time before it got properly dark we pitched my DD Hammocks camping hammock, a great way to watch the sky in comfort and really easy to put up, just make sure your knots are going to be easy to untie after they have tightened up on themselves (note to self!)

Looking up through the trees.

Exit stage right.

Can you find the meteor?

As the sunset eventually faded our choice of viewpoint was confirmed as a winner, with Perseus clearly visible along with the milky way rising in the East it couldn't have been much better. The tiny specks of dust burning up in the earths atmosphere put on a fantastic show, at times 10-15 meteors a minute!

It's a truly special and humbling experience to stand under a million star sky and feel you existence dwarfed into insignificance by the sheer scale of it all. To have a clear view of the meteor shower at the same time is the icing on the cake but the stars alone are worth the effort.

  Shooting above the trees and a touch of milky way.

These shots were all around 20 seconds exposure to keep the stars as points and limited ISO and aperture to stop the light pollution from blowing out the details. With a wider lens or a star tracker far longer exposures would be possible and more meteors visible.

  Five meteors in this frame. 

Shooting over the Fife.

There are multiple dark skies parks / areas in Scotland where the sky is almost totally free of light pollution but even as close by as Tentsmuir woods you can see some pretty awe inspiring stuff.

Amazing views despite a little light pollution.

All you need is clear skies, warm clothes and a friend to use as zombie bait, now get outside and go find some darkness, it's illuminating!

Look up!

Update 12/08/2016

After seeing just how much of the night sky was visable on Monday,  I ventured out again on Thursday night hoping to catch the peak of the activity, scheduled for that night.

A couple of frustrating hours of looking up at clouds eventually gave way to clear skies and the Milky Way again visible in the South East. My glamorous location was this time round was the lay-by between Newport and Tayport.

Deep field telescope.

Deep field telescope.

Meteor trail heading East. 

Meteor trail heading East. 

Milky way rising.

Milky way rising.

Sky Lines 

Sky Lines