‘Explody’ Taurid Meteors Produce Persistent Trains

“The landscape was just at the verge of trying to silently explode with vibrant colors of red, gold and oranges,” said photographer Brad Goldpaint as he described the autumn view during his hike to Deadfall Basin in California to set up his cameras to try and capture a few Taurid meteors.

But the landscape wasn’t the only thing about to explode.

Later that night Brad captured a few “exploding” meteors that produced what are called persistent trains: what remains of a meteor fireball in the upper atmosphere as winds twist and swirl the expanding debris.

Brad created a time-lapse video from the event and slowed down the footage to highlight the trains.

Persistent trains have been difficult to study because they are rather elusive. But lately, with the widespread availability of ultra-fast lenses and highly sensitive cameras, capturing these trains is becoming more common.

Phil Plait still has the best description out there of what happens when persistent trains are produced:

As a meteoroid (the actual solid chunk of material) blasts through the air, it ionizes the gases, stripping electrons from their parent atoms. As the electrons slowly recombine with the atoms, they emit light — this is how neon signs glow, as well as giant star-forming nebulae in space. The upper-level winds blowing that high (upwards of 100 km/60 miles) create the twisting, fantastic shapes in the train.

The consensus among our Universe Today Flickr pool photographers who posted images of the Taurids this year is that the 2015 Taurids weren’t entirely remarkable. Most astrophotgraphers reported they saw one or two per hour. Here are a few more Taurid meteor shower images from our photographer friends:

A bright Taurid fireball on November 9, 2015. Credit and copyright: Mark Sansom.
A bright Taurid fireball on November 9, 2015. Credit and copyright: Mark Sansom.
Two Taurid meteors from the November 2015 shower, on November 10, 2015. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.
Two Taurid meteors from the November 2015 shower, on November 10, 2015. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.
A bright Taurid meteor is reflected in a lake in Illinois. Credit and copyright: Kevin Palmer.
A bright Taurid meteor is reflected in a lake in Illinois. Credit and copyright: Kevin Palmer.

Watch Lenticular Clouds Form in the Moonlight

Clouds and moonlight are usually the bane of astronomers and astrophotographers. But on a recent evening at Mount Shasta in northern California, the two combined for a stunning look at usual cloud formations called lenticular clouds.

Fortunately for us, photographer Brad Goldpaint from Goldpaint Photography was on hand to capture the event. His beautiful sunset and moonlit images show these strange UFO-reminscent clouds, and the timelapse video he created provides a great demonstration of just how they form.

See the video and more images below:

A few ingredients are needed for lenticular clouds to form: mountains, stable but moist air, and just the right temperature and dew point.

According to WeatherUnderground, these smoooth, lens-shaped clouds normally develop on the downwind side of a mountain or mountain range when the stable, moist air flows over the obstruction and a series of large oscillating waves waves may form. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lens-like or lenticular clouds. Since the air is stable, the oval clouds can grow quite large appear to be hovering in one place. Hence, the UFO appearance.

In the video, even though the clouds appear to be moving fast, it is a timelapse, so it shows the cloud movement over the entire night, condensed down to 30 seconds. But the video does allow us to see the fluid dynamics or laminar flows in parallel layers that creates the lenticular clouds. Plus, the stars and moonlight add to the beauty of the scene.

Lenticular clouds form at sunset over Mount Shasta in northern California, October r2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form at sunset over Mount Shasta in northern California, October r2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form over Mount Shasta in northern  California, October, 2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form over Mount Shasta in northern California, October, 2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.

Thanks to Brad for sharing his great work! See more at his website including his series of astrophotography workshops.

A Night-Sky Timelapse You Don’t Want to Miss

It’s an old story: a couple leave their jobs, sell everything, and live in motorhome to capture footage and imagery of the night sky.

Wait… what?

This unique story is exactly what Brad and Marci Goldpaint did. They left their jobs and traveled throughout the western US in an RV to begin educating the public about the damaging effects of light pollution. They wanted to help reconnect people with the simple beauty of the night sky and have been teaching photography workshops and gathering footage for a new timelapse called “Illusion of Lights: A Journey into the Unseen.”

With breathtaking scenes and soaring music, this video “introduces you to the concept of movement and time that visually explores our night skies,” says Brad on Vimeo.

We’ve featured images and timelapses from Brad before, and he shared how the sudden loss of his mother caused him to reassess his goals and priorities. Since 2009 he’s been working on outdoor photography and has now dedicated his work to sharing images of the night sky with others.

For this timelapse, Brad said he “spent countless nights traversing in the dark, carrying heavy camera equipment, and braving the dark unseen.” He dealt with lightning storms, dangerous winds, and up-close encounters with bears and other wildlife. Sometimes, after spending days hiking to a remote location and with optimistic weather reports, Mother Nature showed up and ruined his opportunity to get the shot.

A few highlights: at about 2:00 there is an exploding meteor with a persistent train that is stunning. You’ll also see strange lights on Mount Rainier. Brad explained these lights are from people climbing the mountian at night in hopes of reaching the summit by sunrise the following day. The white lights you see are from their headlamps. “Can you imagine climbing up a mountain in the middle of the night?” he asks?

Another still from "Illusions of Light." Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint Photography.
Another still from “Illusions of Light.” Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint Photography.

For more about this film see their website.

Illusion of Lights: A Journey into the Unseen from Goldpaint Photography on Vimeo.