Monday, August 12, 2013

Waiting for the Perseids

The Milky Way seen from the Bar Harbor Yacht Club pier, looking back toward the mainland. 20 seconds, f3.5, ISO 800, 28mm. (Really wish I'd remembered a wider lens.) 

I've decided we need a new verb, and I propose adapting 'to mother' to describe the times when one decides in one's capacity as Mother that the family will do something whether they like it or not. It is not precisely a synonym for 'to bully' and usually involves motherly statements like "You'll be glad you did" or "You'll remember this when you're old and have forgotten all about the video game you'd rather be playing." Also, "You can sleep anytime, the stars are falling right now."

So I mothered the whole family, including my very patient in-laws, into trekking out to a nice dark place around 10:30 last night to see if the Perseid meteor shower had started. We did see several dramatic shooting stars, and my son clambered into a rowboat to show us the bio-luminescent ripples around its oars. It was dark and peaceful out on the floats, and we could see the lights of Bar Harbor not too far off.

The show should peak tonight, so if you are in the Northern Hemisphere try to get out somewhere really dark. I plan to go back out around midnight by myself. I drag the others out on principle - it's my job as Mom to make damn sure they see miracles and build a little character - but trying to be Mom and Photographer at the same time rarely works. By the time I set up the camera and tripod basically blind (and then fetch my red-light headlamp from whomever has borrowed it so I can read my camera settings) and take a few 20-second exposures, everyone else is cold and ready to go home. Last night I had less moral authority than usual since I'd already made everyone sit through a two-and-a-half-hour performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, so we called it quits after 30 minutes. I'm a loving tyrant.

Do you go star-gazing? What's your favorite place?

P.S. I'm still learning how to take this sort of photograph - I've got a Pinterest board full of night photography tutorials if you're interested.

P.P.S. And if you want regular updates on meteor showers, solar flares and other cool space activity, you can sign up for email bulletins from SpaceWeather.


  1. Mother on Jennifer! There are times you do and times you don't! Three cheers for your success on this particular attempt:) pictures were great! Wish I had half of your skill:) Laura

    1. Thank you, Laura! It isn't really all that hard. If you have a DSLR, try this: use a wide-angle lens, a tripod, and a shutter release. Set the focus to infinity, your ISO to 800 or higher, your aperture to its widest, and take a 20 second exposure. You can experiment with exposure lengths and ISO. Give it a shot!