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We have been lucky to have had two relatively clear nights for this year’s Perseid meteor shower. The absence of the moon has also made a good deal of difference to the 'seeing' conditions.

The night of August 11 provided us with several very bright meteor trails; however, they mostly appeared from the Southern part of the sky, away from Perseus. It is most likely that these were ‘sporadic’ meteors, meaning that they are not associated with any particular meteor shower and do not have a well-defined ‘radiant’ – point of origin in the sky. The sky was relatively clear but recent rain made for a lot of moisture in the air and camera lenses rapidly fogged over.

The night of the 12th appeared to be less clear, with some very high wispy cloud, but there was a definite increase in the hourly meteor rate as we moved into Thursday morning. Higher daytime temperatures meant that camera lenses stayed fog free at night, and we were much more successful with our photography.

We have include a small gallery of images with this post, in which there are two images that show what at first may appear to be meteors but are actually satellites that appear to ‘flare’ when they catch the sun’s rays at the right angle.

Some satellite flares can be predicted, such as the ‘Iridium’ flares that are caused by the shape of the body panels of a particular type of communications satellite, and can be very bright. Other, dimmer flares can be caused the solar panels of the same type of satellite and generally last longer than the brighter ones. The predictions can only be made because the satellites are controlled and their orientation in space is known.

It is also possible to see flares from satellites that cannot be predicted because they are out of control (tumblers), or from debris left after rocket launches.

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