Saturday night was the peak of this year’s Leonid Meteor Shower. Weather conditions were supposed to be near-perfect, and they had predicted a good showing from around 11:45 PM until 1:30 AM. Without Sunday morning obligations, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to view the meteors.
Finding dark skies in Greenville County has really gotten to be a challenge. With the lights of Haywood Mall hovering over our backyard, staying at home was not an option. At about 10:30 I headed out to see if I could find a good viewing area.
First I drove up to Marietta and took the Dacusville Road westward. Skies seemed to be dark enough, but I didn’t want to just pull off and risk getting shot. I took a couple of back country roads and wound up in Dacusville proper at the Recreation Center. There was a great place to pull off, but lights at the center made it less than ideal. Time to move on.
I drove on through Pumpkintown, and find a great pull-off on Highway 8 just north of the community. I was able to view an incredible fireball, and thought I had found my viewing spot. However, Highway 8 proved to have too much traffic for my taste, so I was constantly shielding my eyes to preserve night vision.
Continuing up 8, I made it to Highway 11 and turned west again. I turned into the Table Rock headquarters, and should have just set up shop there in front of the locked gate. Nervousness at being asked what I was doing there made me move on, though, before I could see much.
Back on the road, I headed up Highway 276 toward Caesar’s Head. My goal was Bald Rock, with it’s fantastic views southward toward Greenville. Unfortunately, many teenagers had the same thought. I actually parked and started toward the trail, but the sounds of partying made me decide otherwise. I eventually made it back down to Wildcat Wayside, where I had the pull-out all to myself. It actually had as much or more traffic than Highway 8, but by this point I was desperate for any viewing area with dark skies.
I saw a few sporadic meteors, but nothing like the fireball of earlier. I also set up the camera to do some long exposure shots. The image below is of the constellation Orion. In the larger view you can see the blurring caused by the Earth’s rotation. You can also clearly see the red coloration of Betelgeuse, the Red Giant in Orion’s shoulder.
I could only set my camera for 30 second exposures without manually holding down the shutter release. I’m either going to have invest in a remote shutter release, or reread my camera’s manual to see if there is something I’m missing for long exposures.
I’ve got several friends that live in dark-sky areas. I guess I’m just going to have to plan ahead and convince them that I need access to good viewing. The Orionids are coming up in December. I may just have to make a few calls.