Like two trains passing in the night... a year apart

Like two trains passing in the night... a year apart

Like two trains passing in the night... a year apart

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 13 2012 7:00 AM

Like two trains passing in the night... a year apart

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.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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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.

[Click to ablatenate.]

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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.

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