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Astronomer Photographs Meteor Through Telescope

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the expensive-camera dept.

Space 81

Matt Rogers writes "Amateur astronomer Mike Hankey may be the first person on earth to take a picture of a fireball meteor through a telescope. The picture has been confirmed authentic by numerous professional astronomers and asteroid hunters. This picture could possibly be the first of its kind. Taking a picture of a meteor is a very difficult thing to do, taking a picture of a meteor through a telescope is near impossible. The hunt is on in southern PA for the meteorites that broke away from this space rock. Using Hankey's picture, as well as security tape, meteorite hunters have been able to narrow down the crash site to a smaller area. Even with the trajectory roughly determined, professional meteorite hunters think finding these meteorites may be near impossible. However if they are found they will be immensely valuable and could be very large."

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81 comments

Mr Hankey (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790593)

I'll bet that when you look through Mr Hankey's telescope you get a brown ring around your eye.

Burkina Faso? (2, Insightful)

quenda (644621) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791547)

"The hunt is on in southern PA"

Where on earth is that? Port Arthur? Burkina Faso?
It it hard enough to keep up with computer acronyms, so I don't really want to learn all the world's postcodes.
Please use English translation in the summary where possible. That also applies to "thru"(sic) :-)

Ms. Arthur and Ms. Faso (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793223)

"Where on earth is that? Port Arthur? Burkina Faso?"

One of which is the result of the unholy mating between Natalie Portman and Bea Arthur, and the other must be a supermodel or something.

Re:Burkina Faso? (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793441)

PA is the abbreviation for the United State of Pennsylvania, in the New England area of Northeastern U.S.A.

I infer from your post that you have not graduated from a US grade school (not a bad thing if you are not a US citizen).

Re:Burkina Faso? (2, Insightful)

th1nk (575552) | more than 4 years ago | (#28794641)

PA is the abbreviation for the United State of Pennsylvania, in the New England area of Northeastern U.S.A.

I infer from your post that you have not graduated from a US grade school (not a bad thing if you are not a US citizen).

PA is not in New England.

Re:Burkina Faso? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 4 years ago | (#28797785)

As a former resident of New England, I thank you not to include *shudder* Pennsylvania as a member of our fine region.

Re:Burkina Faso? (2, Interesting)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 4 years ago | (#28794197)

2-letter acronyms for the US states are so common, and so easy to recognize from context, that I don't think it's unreasonable. I'm not American and I picked up on it instantly. (Anecdotal, I know.)

Re:Burkina Faso? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28794451)

I picked it up so easily that I was at first confused about what exactly they were asking. Then again, I live in PA.

Re:Mr Hankey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28804111)

he knows any women or has the guts to éçsãfãfãfãf [deli-selection.jp] to them if he does are slim to none.

Now if you'll excuse me, the microwave

Well, Glad I read TFA (0, Flamebait)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790615)

If it wasn't for TFA, I don't think I ever would have worked out from the picture that it was a meteorite. It's like taking a picture of a blurred rock and claiming it's the fricken moon or something.

Those amazing astronomer's and there cookey lookey-up-close things...

"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790681)

Calling a person an "amateur astronomer" truly minimizes the effort and dedication that "professional astronomers" put into learning their craft. Sometimes PhDs seem a little bit arrogant when they demand to be called "Doctor" rather than "Mister", but if you think about how much of their life they dedicated to studying and becoming a true expert in a field, it is quite reasonable to treat them with deference.

Today's "amateurs" are mostly hobbyists, and shouldn't be conflated with actual professionals. Amateur means someone who does something without pay, but it also implies a certain level of skill on par or slightly below professionals. Once upon a time Olympic athletes were all amateurs, but they were setting world records and competing at the very top tier. Nowadays, anyone with a 50 dollar telescope from Tasco can call themselves an "amateur astronomer" without any training whatsoever.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (4, Insightful)

smaddox (928261) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790719)

This has to be the most pointless post I have ever read. Everyone knows what amateur astronomer means. What the hell are you complaining about? What do you suggest we call him? An amateur telescope user?

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (2, Insightful)

Black Rabbit (236299) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790759)

I think, given the first post to this story, he should be entitled to it.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (-1, Redundant)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790761)

Is reading comprehension difficult for you? He is a hobbyist.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790901)

Add your hobby would seem to be trolling. Keep working at it and with perseverance one far off day you might rise to the the level of amateur troll.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28791319)

But if you want to rise to the level of professional troll, you need to start posting as AC.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28794871)

Make sure you log in [slashdot.org] , though. "True" AC posts start at score 0, which few mods browse at (although they should, there are many gems there.)

Not following my own advice because I'm hardcore like that.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790779)

Sometimes PhDs seem a little bit arrogant when they demand to be called "Doctor" rather than "Mister"...

Of course, when your surname is Hankey you probably want to be called something other than "Mister" regardless of your education.

Remember Comet Hale-Bopp? (4, Informative)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791063)

Comet Hale-Bopp [wikipedia.org] was discovered independently by Alan Hale, a professional astronomer, and Thomas Bopp, a construction worker. At the time, Hale ran something called the Southwest Institute for Space Research, which referred to Bopp as an "amateur astronomer". [swisr.org]

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (0, Offtopic)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791493)

Sometimes PhDs seem a little bit arrogant when they demand to be called "Doctor" rather than "Mister", but if you think about how much of their life they dedicated to studying and becoming a true expert in a field, it is quite reasonable to treat them with deference.

My rear it is.

They didn't spend "much of their life learning" any more than the rest of us. Most of us learn something new every day, but you don't see most of us patting ourselves on the back. While the medical profession is a honorable field, it doesn't give someone carte blanche to be a douche. I'll treat 'em with the same respect they treat me... and I'll extend that to what I choose to call 'em as well.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (1, Insightful)

NitroWolf (72977) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792329)

Calling a person an "amateur astronomer" truly minimizes the effort and dedication that "professional astronomers" put into learning their craft. Sometimes PhDs seem a little bit arrogant when they demand to be called "Doctor" rather than "Mister", but if you think about how much of their life they dedicated to studying and becoming a true expert in a field, it is quite reasonable to treat them with deference.

Today's "amateurs" are mostly hobbyists, and shouldn't be conflated with actual professionals. Amateur means someone who does something without pay, but it also implies a certain level of skill on par or slightly below professionals. Once upon a time Olympic athletes were all amateurs, but they were setting world records and competing at the very top tier. Nowadays, anyone with a 50 dollar telescope from Tasco can call themselves an "amateur astronomer" without any training whatsoever.

Are you an idiot or just a troll? Amateur does not imply a certain level of skill... in fact, it implies a certain LACK of skill. How the hell you can conflate the definition "amateur" with someone who is "on par or slight below professionals" is mind boggling. That word you're looking for to describe that already exists, and it's not "amateur." It's "Journeyman" or perhaps another word... but "amateur" is exactly the descriptive word to use for someone who does it as a "hobby." Lets take you for example... you are an amateur troll and/or internet user. You have no idea what you're doing, you're just here for fun and lulz. You are not a professional nor a journeyman. You are an AMATEUR.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (2, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792701)

You're overlooking the fact that there is no reason an amateur can't be more skilled than a professional. While the average amateur is less skilled, there certainly are amateurs in nearly every field that put most professionals to shame.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (2)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792747)

Amateur means self taught. It has absolutely NO bearing on skill. The arrogance of those who claim that the several years they wasted in an academic institution gives them some claim to a high IQ means nothing in the long run. (not even to an increase in measurable IQ!)

It should be noted that attendance of an institute of "higher learning" is meant to teach one how to teach oneself. I have met many self taught people who have a better grasp in their chosen subjects than many of the so called professionals in their own fields! (Ask many people why they are are in a specific profession and almost invariably the reply is "it pays the bills", not that they have any inherent interest in what they are doing ... unlike an "amateur".

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (2, Informative)

jrms (1347707) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793325)

Just because I need this for my Boy Scout "Pedant" badge, an amateur is someone who pursues something for the love of it, and without pay. I don't think it has anything to do with being self-taught or not.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#28806301)

Are you really that under educated?

The difference between amateur and professional is if you got paid for it.

there is nothing else inferred from it. A amateur basketball player becomes a professional the second he get's hired. An amateur Photographer becomes a pro the second he sells a print.

When you are talking professions, it's a signifier of being paid or doing it for free, nothing more.

In fact have a definition from the dictionary: An amateur is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without formal training or pay.

you must have went to public school.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (3, Insightful)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793565)

What rubbish. A good chuck of amateur astronomers are very "professional" in both training and practice. The professionals, ie the ones that get paid to do it full time, also work with the amateurs (often university graduate level education, its just not their day job) and do not feel minimized in any way.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 4 years ago | (#28804745)

What rubbish. A good chuck of amateur astronomers are very "professional" in both training and practice. The professionals, ie the ones that get paid to do it full time, also work with the amateurs (often university graduate level education, its just not their day job) and do not feel minimized in any way.

Astronomy as a day job, really doesn't work out so well.

Re:"Amateur astronomer" and the audacity of plebes (2, Insightful)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798005)

"amateurs" are mostly hobbyists

Yes

Amateur implies a certain level of skill on par or slightly below professionals

It implies, depending on field, a lack of resources and tools that professionals may have available. It does not imply a lack of skill or effort.

Oblig. FLT quote (5, Funny)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790691)

I have photographed a truly marvelous picture of a meteor, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

Re:Oblig. FLT quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28792043)

Photographing a meteor == hard
Having a picture of a meteor == easier
Photographing the picture == pretty easy, once you've got it

Well, I call BS ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790695)

I was bicycling all over southern PA this afternoon and didn't see it.

Saw plenty of apple trees and rednecks, though.

Wake up, editors. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790701)

'thru'? O'rly?

Re:Wake up, editors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28796901)

If you RTFA, that's the word that Hankey uses.

Seriously now... (1, Insightful)

Ambvai (1106941) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790749)

Seriously now...
Taking a picture of a meteor is a very difficult thing to do, taking a picture of a meteor thru a telescope is near impossible.
Have we fallen so far?

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28791003)

What's more puzzling is that the author wrote "I think I may be the first person in the world to photograph a meteor thru a telescope â" its basically almost impossible to do." , and yet this isn't the same sentence in the summary.

2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790825)

Everybody will be able to take a picture of a meteor at the end of 2012.

happened to me without a camera (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790847)

One time I was looking at sunspots through my small scope, and a flaming meteor just happened to pass within the view as I was watching... it was so cool.

Famous last words (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28790913)

Whoa! I just photographed a m

Can't be that rare (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790925)

Looking through my 10 inch Dobsonian a few nights ago I saw not 1, not 2, but three meteors pass through my view (lowest power eyepiece). I think it was rather unusual I have to say.

Re:Can't be that rare (1)

TheBig1 (966884) | more than 4 years ago | (#28795099)

Did you take a picture of it? That's the rare part, not just seeing it through a telescope.

Cheers

makes me smile (4, Interesting)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790933)

I can tell from reading his blog post that Mike is very excited to be wrapped up in this whirlwind affair of being the first person in the world to ever catch a meteorite through a telescope, the guy is absolutely giddy in his writing and awe of the world wide attention. It has a sort of innocence about it that is rather charming. It absolutely comes through in his writing, reading it makes me smile from how genuine it comes across. He's in for some fun and exhausting times for the next few days. he must be having a hard time sleeping and all that, how exciting for him, way to go mike!

Re:makes me smile (0, Troll)

Fotograf (1515543) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791299)

and yet slashdot have more comments than his blog. if this is not prove that blogs are overrated than nothing is.

Re:makes me smile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793293)

His writing makes him come across as a fairly knowledgeable 12 year old. Seriously, run a spell check. Fix the typos. Who the fuck is Indian Jones?

Whoa ! Take a deep breath (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28790957)

Meteors get images in astronomical photo's all of the time - they do, after all, tend to be time exposure, frequently quiet long. There
have been lots of these.

It looks, from this image, that this was possibly a bolide and that there were pieces coming off. (It also could have been a re-entering satellite.) I don't see what that tells you about the orbit of the meteor, except that it passed through a patch of sky. Meteor patrols, such as the Prairie Network and the one at Ondrejov Observatory in the former Czechoslovakia, used wide-angle cameras with rotating fans in front of the telescope, so you can determine the velocity of the bolide from the breaks in the streak. So, I doubt this picture helps to determine the orbit of the meteor much. Survellience camera images would be much more useful - it is fairly routine now-a-days for local imagery to determine the orbit of meteorites well enough to find falls.

Also, while it is true that some meteorites are very expensive, that is precisely because they are rare. The chances of this body, assuming it reached the ground, being rare are also rare.

If anyone reading this does find pieces, try not to touch them and use tongs or a shovel etc. to put them into a baggy or baggies. If they are fresh, seal these and put them in the freezer. That will reduce contamination and this enhance their scientific usefulness. Pictures of the pieces on the ground before they are moved would also be good.

Re:Whoa ! Take a deep breath (2, Informative)

MetBlog (1602873) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792605)

You're right it could have been space debris from a satellite or rocket. However most agree it's most likely a meteor fireball and not flaming space junk. A "meteor" doesn't have an orbit. A meteoroid (asteroid) does have an orbit while in space. A meteorite is the rock that survives impact with the Earth. And a meteor is the fiery phenomena while entering our atmosphere, better known as a shooting star. Meteors are usually seen in meteor showers such as the famous Leonids, and Perseids meteor showers. Meteors are small grain of sand sized particles, while fireballs are the result of a much larger mass entering our atmosphere. Small meteors are in fact captured on film all the time, however to actually capture a large bolide event such as this while zoomed in to focus on a galaxy, through a telescope with a field of view that is a small fraction of the visible night sky is a one-in-a-million shot. Fireballs are just large meteors. The value of meteorite fragments to science and collectors around the world is great, however it depends on the type of meteorite it is. Many museum, private collectors, and scientists can and do receive pieces of new meteorite falls all the time. Many meteorites fall every year, and pieces of these space rocks are studied, classified, and distributed throughout the worlds private collections and scientific institutions. Colleges and universities also may receive pieces for scientific study and course work in many related fields including mineralogy, chemistry, geology, and of course astronomy. The study of meteorites, their composition, and their origins is called meteoritics. The chances of actually capturing this meteor/fireball on film are truly astronomically small. Every pun intended.

Meteor photography without telescope common (5, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791027)

It's common for amateur astronomers to do meteor photography but they do not use telescopes. Instead they use wide angle lenses on a camera to improve their chances of a meteor being caught on film (digital or otherwise). The reason it hasn't been done before is that it would be very frustrating and you'd need to take a lot of pictures before statistically expecting to capture one meteor. Despite that I'm very surprised it hasn't been done before (and I have a degree in Astronomy, though I must admit meteors were never one of my principle interests).

Clearly it's exciting because if you can get a closer look at something you can learn more about it. As for it being just a streak, I doubt there's a camera on Earth that'll catch anything more than a streak using current techniques. Meteors are both faint and very fast moving. Either one you can compensate for but both...that's a challenge.

Awesome. (5, Informative)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791275)

It has always been my personal belief that everyone should own a telescope so that they can look at the vastness and complexity of our universe in awe when they see it with their own eyes. You probably won't be able to replicate this photo, but I just got my Galileoscope, a simple backyard 50mm achromatic refractor which the International Astronomer's Union is selling for $12.95. It's not the greatest telescope in the world, but for an amateur stargazer, it's perfect... and it's thirteen dollars. Plus, the whole thing is non-profit. https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/ [galileoscope.org]

Re:Awesome. (2, Insightful)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793523)

... and it's thirteen dollars. Plus, the whole thing is non-profit.

https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/ [galileoscope.org]

But, it seems, exclusive to the US. Know of anything similar in Europe and the rest of the world?

Re:Awesome. (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793531)

But, it seems, exclusive to the US. Know of anything similar in Europe and the rest of the world?

Argh. Sorry. They do deliver elsewhere.

Re:Awesome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793671)

I've always enjoyed astronomy pictures and documentaries, with the usual videos of zoom-outs from Earth level (or even microscopic levels) way out to 'the universe', videos of comparisons of our sun to other known stars in our galaxy, etc. I've even smiled and felt humbled at the pictures of Earth from the Moon that the astronauts on the moon brought back, and the picture of the tiny blue dot as seen in a picture of a backlit Saturn... ...but none of them have impressed me as much as July 14th's APOD;
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090714.html [nasa.gov]
( view full image)
Maybe it's because of the moon providing sense of scale, maybe it's because it's just a regular ol' picture taken from Earth and the realization that - if you look closely enough - you can see not only a planet (oh look.. a very bright 'star') but -the moons orbiting it-... I don't know what, specifically, but more than any other astronomy picture I've seen, it's given me the actual sense that we are in a planetary system far less abstract than the usual graphics. /anon

Build your own GOOD telescope for under $100 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28794675)

Big-box scopes are junk.

ANYONE with simple tools can build this 4.5" reflector. - j

http://home.comcast.net/~jayscheuerle/PortaBowl.pdf

Re:Awesome. (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#28795461)

Amen brother.

I live in the urban concrete jungle but went to stay with my father in the countryside a few years back. During the evening I remarked about how many stars there were in the sky. My father disappeared, only to return a minute later with a pair of binoculars. These binoculars weren't anything special, probably 10x-12x, I don't know.

Never have I seen a sight like it. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of stars.

Every return visit, I always grab the binoculars off the hook.

"its basically almost impossible to do. especially (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28791335)

"its basically almost impossible to do. especially a meteor like this.â

I don't understand why it's nearly impossible, is it JUST because "you'd need to take a lot of pictures before statistically expecting to capture one meteor" as one commenter said?
Nor do I understand how/why he was able to do it.

Could someone please explain?

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791565)

When you're looking through a telescope, particularly one that is portable, you are focusing on a very small part of the sky. Meteors fall wherever they fall. During a shower you don't know where the next one will show up, and through a telescope you have a very good chance of not pointing the right way at the right time to catch one, let alone get off a camera shot.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#28791655)

"its basically almost impossible to do. especially a meteor like this."

I don't understand why it's nearly impossible, is it JUST because "you'd need to take a lot of pictures before statistically expecting to capture one meteor" as one commenter said? Nor do I understand how/why he was able to do it.

Could someone please explain?

How about "He got lucky because a meteor happened to pass through his time lapse exposure of Andromeda." Does that explain it better?

Nowhere did the article say he was explicitly trying to photograph a meteor. He was just photographing some sky near Andromeda when the meteor accidentally passed his scope. If you were to try to photograph a meteor, you'd be spending a lot of time outside.

For fun, let's do the math and figure out how hard it would really be to photograph a meteor. First, just suppose his telescope and camera setup could gather light from about 1 arc minute of sky. (Crap, I'm lousy at this math, so I'll post it anyway and let someone correct me.) There are about 3,437 arc minutes in a radian, squared that would be about 11,812,969 arc minutes in a steradian. There are 4 pi steradians in a sphere; given that you can only see half the sky, that leaves 2 pi steradians of sky in which to point your telescope.

Assuming you have a night where you are guaranteed to see one meteor, but you don't know where it will be in the sky, you have a roughly one in 75 million chance that your telescope will be pointing in the right direction when it blasts by. Since meteors are extremely quick little buggers, you'd have no time to aim or even click the shutter upon its arrival. That means you'd have to reduce your chances even further by the time you are NOT spending taking pictures (setting up, between shots, changing batteries, etc.)

Statistically, you have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of photographing a meteor through a telescope. "Nearly impossible" is pretty accurate.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792437)

These calculations however apply only to one single photographer during one single night, and assume that there is only one single meteorite during that night.

Since there are usually more than one photographer up on any given night, there have been a lot more than 1 night in the last - say... decade - and that usually there is more than on meteor per night...

Well, suddenly the odds of SOMEBODY catching a meteor at night at SOME point are much higher. Though I wouldn't want to guess exactly what the odds are.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793389)

"Well, suddenly the odds of SOMEBODY catching a meteor at night at SOME point are much higher. Though I wouldn't want to guess exactly what the odds are."

Yeah, someone just did. Some guy named Mike Hankey. They posted an article on Slashdot about it, you should read it...

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (2, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#28792657)

First, just suppose his telescope and camera setup could gather light from about 1 arc minute of sky. (Crap, I'm lousy at this math, so I'll post it anyway and let someone correct me.)

Most astronomical telescopes have a light-gathering cone covering about a degree of sky (so-called widefield scopes manage a few degrees). The amount visible through an eyepiece is less than this, by a factor which depending on many parameters. The amount captured in focal plane photography is also less, then the whole field, but typically not greatly less.
Meteors are common enough - you'll see several per hour in a dark site with clear skies. Fireball meteors are rare, however; I've only seen two, and I'm an amateur astronomer. One was in the mid 1980s and was visible in broad daylight and took several seconds to cross about a quarter of the sky (probably burned out at high altitude). The other was at night in the late 1990s and was truly spectacular - it crossed the entire sky in little more than a second, with a flaming trail covering at least 20 degrees.

I've seen very few of them, too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793415)

Then I suppose I should feel grateful to have seen that fireball over Phoenix a few days ago that lasted for just a second or two...

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793373)

Statistically, you have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of photographing a meteor through a telescope. "Nearly impossible" is pretty accurate.

Meh, I get them all the time when I use my special fisheye telescope.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28793951)

Dude, you have it the wrong way round.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793459)

You obviously have not looked at many deep sky astronomical images, nor at the article in question. Meteor trails in deep sky images are fairly common.

First, if you look at the original picture, http://www.mikesastrophotos.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/july6-bolide-hankey.jpg [mikesastrophotos.com] , you will see it's more like a
square degree in size (i.e., about 1000 to 10,000 times more area than your calculation). These sorts of wide-angle images are common with people observing near-by galaxies, which are after all fairly big things fairly close by.

Second, most astronomical photos are time exposures (or, now-a-days, many short CCD exposures may be taken to sum up and get one good picture). The OA picture looks like a fairly short time exposure, but I bet he took more than one picture.

Third, most nights with a dark sky, you will see a meteor trail every minute or so, and of course more during meteor showers. All of this means that getting a meteor streak in your photo is not nearly as rare as you think. Bolides (fireballs) are certainly more rare, and he was lucky to get one (assuming it wasn't a re-entering satellite).

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#28795117)

So if your telescope was gathering a degree instead of a minute, that would improve your chances by a factor of 3600 from my original math. That increases it to about a 1 in 20,000 chance you'd be pointed in the same direction as the meteor, which is a number much more consistent with your observation of meteor trails in images. And a lot more plausible if you're deliberately trying to capture a meteor on camera.

The best approach is to maximize your viewing time. Observe every single night, and even if it's partly overcast you should still go out and point your telescope in the direction of clear sky. More telescopes increase your chances. More time increases your chances. Keep the camera shutters running.

Now, I've never seen a "meteor trail every minute or so" except during a meteor shower. I consider myself lucky when I see one in an hour, so I'd question that particular figure. But I still think you'd be lucky to get one picture of a meteor in a month. And you'd still have to win the lottery to get a shot of a bolide.

Re:"its basically almost impossible to do. especia (1)

deathcow (455995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28797467)

Gather light from 1 arcminute of sky? He was photographing Andromeda galaxy, which is like 180 x 60 arcmin minimally for his field of view. So his chances of getting this are 10,800 times higher than your calcs.

Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28792441)

Many 'amateur' astronomers are not amateur at all. And when the world's largest telescopes have full schedules targeting deep space mysteries and other weird objects, the 'common' celestial targets are ignored. Amateur astronomers don't ignore such things, they spend a lot of time and effort to observe them.

For example, the planet Jupiter.

Here's a discovery made by another amateur, Anthony Wesley. An impact mark on Jupiter, similar to Shoemaker-Levy which occurred back in 1994. And here's the link [samba.org] .

I didn't see anything about it in /. Why?

Re:Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (2, Informative)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793159)

I didn't see anything about it in /. Why?

..perhaps because you're too busy writing smary comments to search?
http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/07/20/0114250/Something-May-Have-Just-Hit-Jupiter [slashdot.org]

Re:Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28804839)

Mea culpa.

So /. actually has a search feature that works!

Re:Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793499)

Many 'amateur' astronomers are not amateur at all.

Note that 'amateur' comes from the French for "lover" and has a primary meaning someone who loves what they are doing, someone who is not paid being a secondary meeting. I would say that almost all astronomers are amateur. Some are even paid for doing it as well.

Amateur astronomers in the "unpaid" sense make many discoveries and (if they know what they are doing) tend to get a high regard from the professional astronomical community.

Re:Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (2, Informative)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28794739)

Note that 'amateur' comes from the French for "lover" and has a primary meaning someone who loves what they are doing, someone who is not paid being a secondary meeting. I would say that almost all astronomers are amateur. Some are even paid for doing it as well.

Argh, no! The English definition of Amateur (from Dictionary.com) is the following:

1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.
2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.
3. a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity: Hunting lions is not for amateurs.
4. a person who admires something; devotee; fan: an amateur of the cinema.

Your definition is the fourth down, under three definitions that state either lack of skill or lack of pay. Are you telling me that 1 through 3 are only "secondary definitions?" Because I think it's the other way around. Please do not confuse etymology with definition, either unintentionally or (as I see so often) as a rhetorical trick. The former is somewhat interesting, but only useful in this context if we happen to be posting on a French version of Slashdot.

Re:Amateur astronomers can contribute to science (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801949)

Also not that only ONE of those definitions actually implies a lack of skill. All Olympians are ametures, but only a fool would say they are not among the most skilled in the world at what they do (perhaps with the exception of the combat sports).

Happens often - no big deal (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28793455)

Astronomers (whether amateur or pro.) frequently get meteor trails or satellite trails in photos. if they are too intrusive the shot is often discarded as a failure. I have had many images inadvertently capture things like this - it's just pure dumb luck. I've also occasionally made an effort, when a meteor shower is expected, to put a digital camera in the garden to repeatedly photograph the part of the sky where meteors should occur. Guess what? I get some!

Looking at this accidental photograph, the trail does look quite bright and shows other trails running parallel to the main one. Where I live, this happens when you get an aircraft running across the field of view. Maybe it was a meteor, maybe it was man-made, however there's no usable information in the photo, except that this guy's polar alignment needs adjusting, the stars should be perfect dots, not showing lines as in the blow-up..

Re:Happens often - no big deal (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#28794281)

Looking at this accidental photograph, the trail does look quite bright and shows other trails running parallel to the main one. Where I live, this happens when you get an aircraft running across the field of view.

Since the article says that many others, including some security cameras, saw the same bolide, the "airplane" interpretation is ruled out even without paying attention to the fact that the meteor did not have red and green navigation lights on its wingtips.

Re:Happens often - no big deal (1)

Megahurts72 (1602857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28797335)

1st doing this with a camera lens is no big deal. Doing it with a telescope is. Please post some images like this from a google images search for 'fireball meteor' and we'll see how often it has happened before. Also regarding the plane read this email thread posted on mike's site: http://www.mikesastrophotos.com/baltimore-pa-meteor/mason-dixon-medeorite-photo-confirmed-by-leading-asteroid-hunter/ [mikesastrophotos.com] Its from the astronomer who detected TC3 (an asteroid that crashed into earth). "I am an astronomer with the Catalina Sky Survey. We search for Near Earth Asteroids and are the most productive survey in that field. I am also the discoverer of 2008 TC3, the first object to be discovered in space and then impacting on earth." This guy Richard looks at 1000s of photos a night and is one of the world's leading asteroid hunters. I think he knows what he is talking about. The picture has been fully vetted and was published at skyandtelescope.com as well as many other places.

Re:Happens often - no big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28806277)

I've also occasionally made an effort, when a meteor shower is expected, to put a digital camera in the garden to repeatedly photograph the part of the sky where meteors should occur. Guess what? I get some!

Guess what? That's not a telescope!

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