Framework

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Rena Snyder of Granada Hills gazes skyward from a lounge chair at two meteors streaking through the northeast sky over Mt. Pinos. Hundreds of astronomy buffs gathered in a parking lot to see the annual Perseid meteor shower.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Charles Snell and his date Carol Moreno gaze toward the Milky Way, hoping to see meteors during the Perseid shower. Hundreds of astronomy buffs and the curious spent the night in a parking lot in the clear, crisp air at 8,300-foot Mt. Pinos north of Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

In the upper right, a meteor streaks through the Milky Way over Mt. Pinos, where hundreds of astronomy buffs spent the night viewing the annual Perseid meteor shower. A jet airplane leaves a white line at the bottom right in this 30-second exposure.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

A meteor above the Santis in Schwaegalp, Switzerland during the annual Perseid shower.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allessandro Della Bella / EPA

A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky over Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Kieran Doherty / Reuters

A Perseid meteor, upper left, streaks across the sky over a building at the Techatticup Mine. The annual display, known as the Perseid shower because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky, is a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky over El Torcal nature park in the southern Spanish town of Antequera, near Malaga.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jon Nazca / Reuters

A meteor seen over the Matka mountain, near the Skopje, Macedonia.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Georgi Licovski / European Pressphoto Agency

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Perseid meteor shower

The Perseid meteor shower treated stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere to a spectacular show Thursday night. On Mt. Pinos in northern Ventura County, dozens of amateur and professional astronomers gathered to watch the shower’s peak, which usually happens the second week of August. Los Angeles Times staff photographer Don Bartletti was there too. Bartletti is one of our go-to people on staff for this type of photography. His work and that of others is included in this photo gallery.

He said conditions at 8,300-foot-elevation Mt. Pinos, north of Los Angeles, were ideal for overnight viewing of the annual Perseid shower because there is little light pollution from nearby cities. The crescent moon set just after sunset, the temperature was 48 degrees and the air was absolutely still.  About 150 people filled the parking lot to overflowing.  Astronomy buffs set up telescopes to view planets and stars.  However, only the naked eye is needed to see meteors, as they move fast and can come from any direction.  The regulars said this year’s meteor count was considerably less than in previous years. But the occasional super-bright streaks brought loud “ooohs” and “aaahs” and yelps that echoed through the pine forest.

Bartletti’s photojournalistic goal was to capture a meteor and people looking at the celestial light show.  He roamed around in the dark making friends with lots of strangers  in lounge chairs and on air mattresses and blankets.  He used two Canon digital cameras, each on a tripod lowered almost to the ground with 14-millimeter wide-angle lenses aimed up at the sky.  Each had a cable release to lock the shutter open for 30 seconds.  The digital sensitivity, or ISO, was set to 1000.  Sometimes a car would pull into the lot with its lights on, prompting curses and howls from the serious sky watchers, because white light can temporarily ruin your ability to see well in the dark.  But the car lights had the unintended benefit of illuminating the people in his composition. He didn’t dare use a flash to light the foreground because he wanted to keep the friends he just made.

Bartletti strives to photograph people enjoying the cosmos, but shooting the Perseid meteors is frustrating.  First off, the streaks came without warning, and usually from a direction away from where his cameras were aimed.  When the whoops and yells erupted in reaction to a blazing trail, he usually cussed under his breath.   He shot about 130 time exposures and snagged meteors in only four frames.  But the brilliance of the Milky Way stretched out above the tall pine trees was breathtaking, especially to city-slickers and suburbanites who see only a tiny fraction of stars amid the light-polluted lower elevations of Southern California.

6 Comments

  1. August 13, 2010, 11:14 am

    [...] The Los Angeles Times has a series of photos of the Perseid meteor shower. [...]

  2. August 13, 2010, 11:41 am

    Awwwww, look at the cute couple!!!

    By: AP III
  3. August 13, 2010, 4:38 pm

    I thought u might be interested in knowing that catholics refer to the perseid meteor shower as “tears of St. Lawrence” because August 10th was the date of his martydom

    By: Renee Callahan
  4. August 14, 2010, 11:05 am

    [...] Mt. Pinos — Rena Snyder of Granada Hills gazes skyward from a lounge chair at two meteors streaking through the northeast sky over Mt. Pinos. Hundreds of astronomy buffs gathered in a parking lot to see the annual Perseid meteor shower. Read ahead [...]

  5. August 15, 2010, 11:54 pm

    Mt. Pinos — In the upper right, a meteor streaks through the Milky Way over Mt. Pinos,

    The Photo with the Large Telescope.

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    By: Clint & Debbie Whitman
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