Night photography: an Orionid meteor in Dartmoor’s dark skies ☄️

On Sunday 30th October I was admiring Jupiter in Dartmoor’s pitch black skies when what looked like a satellite skimmed above the tower of the illuminated church (header photo only viewable in browser).

At first thought it was a satellite due to its steady glide, but then satellites don’t usually burn up in the atmosphere, which is what this object did.

Orionid meteor by Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons

It later turned out that the trail of light was part of the Orionid meteor shower. Above is a photo kindly donated to Wikimedia Commons to illustrate it.

This Orionid was seen outside the peak for this shower. It was even more lucky because the weather surrounding those nights had been pretty much torrential rain and the night sky had been tucked away behind cloud.

The Orionids aren’t anything to do with the constellation of Orion directly, but are so named because they appear nearby and their naming helps people (like me) to locate them. These meteors are actually fragments of Hally’s Comet, which you may have heard of.

Jupiter seen through the leaves of a silver birch tree (Dartmoor, November 2022)

This is a great time to observe the night sky and take in all the night has to offer. Redwings are arriving in their thousands and can be heard even over the most built-up and light-polluted parts of the UK. While the Orionid meteor flashed across the sky, redwings were covering the night sky in their own, invisible but audible way.

A few nights later the skies cleared after days of heavy rain and high winds. This gave a good chance to look at Orion, which was fixed perfectly from the back of where I was staying at the time of viewing:

The constellation of Orion: Dartmoor November 2022

Cropping a bit closer you can see the fierce glow of the Orion Nebula in the bottom right-hand part of the image:

Also prominent and not too far from Orion was the Pleiades:

The Pleiades: Dartmoor, November 2022

I’m using a new camera (Olympus EM-1 MIII) at the moment which has the ability to autofocus stars with a special feature. It didn’t actually work that well for me, though I was taking these photos handheld and may have had the settings wrong. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, as much as my astrophotography attempts are to be honest!

I was really drawn to this large bright star to the left-hand side(!) of Orion. I need to be better at noting the locations of stars in relation to other constellations. Looking at Stellarium I think it’s either Mars or Betelgeuse.

Thanks for gazing.

Further reading: Night photography

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