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See a meteor shower in a minute

Meteor showers are marvelous sights, as myriads of stargazers found out a week ago. But seeing them can sometimes be inconvenient. To get the best view, you have to go far from city lights and stay up until the wee hours of the morning. The ideal situation would be to camp out in a beautiful location like California's Joshua Tree National Park and keep your eyes open all night.

That's exactly what photographer Henry Jun Wah Lee did last week. He set up his camera in the park for two nights around the peak of the Perseid meteor shower (Aug. 12 and 15), took a series of exposures, and spliced them together artfully into a multi-day time-lapse sequence.


The result makes it seem as if the meteors are popping like fireworks amid the multitudes of stars in the Milky Way ... two nights' worth in just a little more than minute. But not all of the flashes you see are shooting stars.

"I did catch some airplanes," Lee told me today. The streaks that appear to move across the sky are more likely nighttime airplane transits rather than meteors. But there's a killer meteor flash that pops up around the 30-second mark, leaving a little wisp of vapor in its wake.

"When that happened, it lit up the whole sky like a flash of lightning," Lee said.

For still more August awesomeness, check out the Perseid meteor gallery at SpaceWeather.com.

The Perseid show is pretty much over, as this activity graph from the International Meteor Organization illustrates. But there's more to come: The highlights ahead include the Leonids of Nov. 17 and the Geminids of Dec. 13-14. That timetable should give you enough advance warning to scope out a picturesque viewpoint ... at Joshua Tree or closer to home.

The video above is by Henry Jun Wah Lee via Vimeo. Tip o' the Log to Bad Astronomy.