A harvest of Perseids in 2016 as meteors perform well

We are now past maximum of the Perseid meteor shower, so let’s see some Perseid photos! Numbers visible are dropping off rapidly although you could still see a few of the brighter ones if you have a clear sky and are patient.

A bright Perseid beneath the Andromeda galaxy (M31). Perseus itself is to the left of the frame.

Unfortunately the Moon is becoming more prominent in the sky, close to full phase, brightening the sky background.

The big news this year is that there was a surge in numbers for a time ahead of maximum, on the night of 11-12 August. As predicted by leading professional meteor astronomers, the Earth crossed a dense patch of the comet dust late on 11 August. For a short time between 23h and 00h UT, the zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) soared to around 240, which is three times higher than was predicted for the maximum the following day.

As described in our guide to observing these meteors, the ZHR is a figure calculated for optimum observing conditions which rarely actually occur, but the boost in numbers of meteors was evident to observers who had clear, dark skies at the time.

The writer had to wait until the following night to attempt to photograph the shower. He imaged 20 Perseids and a couple of sporadics (non-shower members) on the night of 12-13 August, many of them on both his cameras, the Canon EOS 600D fitted with a Sigma lens working at 10mm/f3.5 and a Fujifilm X-M1 with a Samyang 12mm/f2 prime lens.

The “battle of the lenses” showed that the Samyang definitely recorded fainter stars, despite having a smaller aperture than the Sigma, and the Fujifilm camera produced far nicer jpeg images, with less noise than the five-year-old Canon. (Both were operating at a speed of 1600 ISO).

A selection of the best of the Fujifilm’s images taken by the writer are included with this article. You can see, if you click to enlarge the photos of the brighter meteors, how they begin by glowing green, before becoming more red.

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A bright Perseid flares as it speeds away from the Andromeda Galaxy, M31.
Another Perseid, flaring at the end, above the Pleiades and the Hyades.
A bright Perseid drops towards the horizon. Famous star clusters in Taurus, the Pleiades and the Hyades, are visible, to the right.
A wide-angle view of the pre-dawn sky reveals clouds, illuminated contrails and one of the last bright Perseids captured this night.