A new meteor shower, named the Camelopardalids, reached a peak last Friday night. The shower, so named because the meteors would appear to originate from the direction of the constellation Camelopardalis, are a result of the Earth passing through the trail of comet 209P/LINEAR, discovered in 2004.

This had all the hallmarks of being a great display — the western US and Canada was expected to have the best display, the moon wouldn’t rise at the time of the peak, and the rate of meteors was predicted to be as high as 100 per hour. Unfortunately for the Vancouver, the weather once again conspired to prevent seeing this, with nearly 100% cloud cover forecast.

Determined not to be beaten quite so easily, careful studying of weather maps and predictions led me to decide that I could get clear skies by driving south into northern Washington, where coastal areas looked like they would be mostly clear, so I jumped in the car and headed to Deception Pass State Park near Anacortes, WA.

My weather predictions turned out to be pretty good – while there was cloud on the horizon, and some occasional patches blowing by overhead, by and large it was a cloud-free, if slightly hazy, night. The only thing that could go wrong now was if the meteor shower didn’t live up to expectations!

It didn’t! Far from predictions of 100 per hour, I saw only four during the entire night! Looking online, it appears that the meteor shower peaked earlier than expected (at 9:00pm PST, when it was still light), was less intense than expected, and the meteors were smaller than expected, mostly being barely visible unless you were looking in exactly the right spot.

I had hoped that the camera might have picked up some more, but while it did, even these are very faint. There are two meteor trails in this photo, but it’s almost impossible to see them at anything less than full resolution. However, I was fortunate enough to get some Milky Way visibility. It was not the best display I’ve seen by any means, being almost invisible to the eye, but some is better than none! The clouds on the horizon also picked up the lights of Everett and Seattle, giving an almost sunset-like glow from the sodium lighting. The star at the top left of the photo is Vega, the fifth brightest star in the night sky.

This was taken at 1:15am using ISO 4000, f/3.2, 16mm, for 20 seconds.

night sky washington
Lens Camera