Danny's Meteor

 Astrophotography details:

Film Kodak Royal Gold 1000
Telescope/camera 50 mm camera tripod mounted
Exposure time 5 minutes?
Autoguider exposure time  
guide star  
Date of Photo August 1994.
Location Near Peralta Trail in Superstition Mountains
Scanner HP PHOTOSMART SCANNER Scan of print
Additional image processing Cropped
Posted  8 February 97
Danny Bersch, a colleague, took this photo of a meteor during the Perseid Meteor shower in August 1994 using Kodak Royal Gold 1000 film. He used the standard technique, i.e., 35 mm camera, tripod, open shutter for 5 minutes or so and hope a meteor goes through the field. This photo is an HP PHOTOSMART SCANNER scan of a print. It has been cropped. Interestingly, the whole trail was captured. Even more interesting are the color changes that occur along the trail. We have guessed that this is a nickel-iron meteor and that initially, the nickel began vaporizing (boiling point 2900 C) and began to generate its characteristic green spectral emission (dominant line at 5035.337 Angstroms?). Then the iron began vaporizing (boiling point 3000 C) and began to generate its characteristic red spectral emission (dominant line at 6494.98 Angstroms?). Then the meteor vaporizes in a flash of white. I used the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics to locate the spectral lines. There are hundreds of emission lines listed for Iron and for Nickel so the dominant color is not obvious from the listings. I am relying partly on my experience as a child (age 10 to 14) when I had a *real* chemistry set and constructed a carbon arc using a hotplate as a current limiting device and carbon rods obtained from taking flashlight batteries apart. (I don't think they make them that way any more...) I made a spectroscope from diffraction grating replica obtained from Edmund Scientific. My recollection is that nickel visibly showed some strong green lines and that Iron showed some strong red lines. Of course, that was a while ago when chemistry sets had powdered Zinc, Sulphur, powdered Magnesium, lampblack, Potassium Nitrate, etc., so I may not be remembering correctly... Other explanations for the color behavior are welcome. Send E-Mail to Howard C. Anderson.