I've been waiting for nearly a month for Saturday night's Perseid meteor shower. I had my cameras all ready, programmed for several different options, depending on the night, the sky, the meteors, the angles, etc. Tripod ready, lounge chair in place, alarm set, though I decided against sleeping out; instead I would get up at 3:00am, which according to NASA would be optimum viewing of crescent moon, Jupiter, Venus, and the meteors.
At 11:30pm, when I went outside to check the night, there was a distinct smell of smoke in the air, and a haze seemed to be covering the stars a bit. There was a slight breeze so I figured by the predawn hours, the sky would be clear again. As clear as it's been for weeks now. That would be crystal clear. On Friday night the Milky Way was a celestial boulevard of stars over my head.
3:00am, the alarm goes off, I scramble into my sweats, grab the cameras and tripod where they're stationed at the back door, and head out to the deck.
I can barely find a single star, let alone the myriad heavenly bodies I have seen night after night all Summer long. The smoke is dense, like looking through gauze, the air is tainted with the smell and slightly burns my throat and eyes.
What are the odds, I wonder? Days, weeks, months of clear skies, then the very night I have been waiting for, an event that is supposed to be the best in years...and I can't see a bloody thing.
I stayed outside for over an hour, and managed to see one meteor. It was like a match strike: a quick streak of orange/red and gone. Imagine if there had been open, clear skies. That striking match would have been a brilliant stream, among the multitudes that were expected.
Here are a few shots of the smoke, still lingering in the valleys below my mountain this morning. It turns out there are nearly 25 fires raging in Oregon this weekend. Many are minor, some are not. They all generate smoke however, and it's being funneled right down the valleys, becoming stuck between the mountains and ridges in this part of the state.
If you look straight up, the sky is a deep blue, but everywhere else the blue is a faded, grayish color. The air quality is bad, eyes water if you're outside too long, even the dogs were sort of coughing when we went down the mountain to the park this morning. Sigh.
I'm going to try again tonight, but unless the fires are put out, and a really strong wind starts blowing, I imagine things will actually be worse, rather than better for me to have any chance of stargazing, or meteor photography.
And how cranky was I to read that all over the country, and the world, people were seeing the best light show ever, with up to 100 meteors an hour?
Odds. Go figure.