Monday, August 17, 2009
Went to Tennessee last week to deliver some stuff to my newly married daughter that wouldn't fit into their getaway car, see some family, relax a bit and hopefully get a look at the Perseid meteor shower -- something I've wanted to do for many years, but couldn't, either due to schedule, weather or location -- suburban Chicago is not the best place to gaze at the night sky unless you want to see the orangy glow of city lights that stretches for dozens of miles in all directions. I hoped that a location atop the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, nearly 1,000 feet higher than the surrounding area and far away from big city lights would make meteor viewing that much better.
The weather nearly added another year to the futility list. The week started off cloudy. The night of peak meteor activity was foggy. Not foggy enough to completely obliterate the starry sky, but foggy enough so that only the brightest meteors could be seen. But I did see them. They ranged from the briefest blips of light to long trails that cut across nearly half of the sky. The fog wreaked havoc with my digital camera, though. None of the photos I took that night were worth keeping.
The next night started off clear, and I hoped to finally capture some streaking meteors. No such luck. The shower was pretty much spent, and while a few meteors showed up, none were bright enough to register on my camera. And fog started to roll in after about an hour of sky watching.
So I settled for this shot -- a little house high atop the Cumberland Plateau, sitting underneath a starry sky. The house itself was lit by a mercury vapor light located a half mile down the road. The glow on the horizon is from the lights of McMinville, Tennessee, about 30 miles away. The points of light in the sky are much farther away.
Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.