Of Bolides and Birds

by Kevin Shank | Jul 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Bolides, meteors, fireflies
Bolide with Tau Herculid meteor shower and fireflies. Photo © Cheryl Shank.

I didn’t know birds talk in their sleep, but they surely must. About 12:30 a.m. an Ovenbird began to talk. Before long, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo made some comments of his own, too, and he kept on. Yet, the nightjars we usually hear, the Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will’s-widows, were silent. They must have dozed off. Oh yes, a pewee made some sleepy remarks too.

But that wasn’t all the fun we were having in our yard. This was the night of the first-time-ever-seen Tau Herculids meteor shower, since the comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 broke up and left a cloud of debris in its orbit. The prediction said the meteor shower would likely not be much of a show, but could be a storm, a shower, or a dud.

We decided to have an evening out and photograph star trails, use the telescope, and watch for meteors. Cheryl set a Canon R5 with a 17-40mm f/4 lens on a tripod and pointed it west, up through the “hole-in-the-trees” view of the skies we have from our yard. Using ISO 8000, she set the camera to take 30-second photos back-to-back for several hours. If the new meteor shower turned out to be fun, she would hopefully have some delightful photos.

At 12:06 a.m. May 31, six minutes after Cheryl’s sixteenth birthday closed out, she captured a beautiful double bolide—the fireball exploded twice.

Subsequent photos revealed a smoke train. Her camera picked up the train for the next twelve minutes. This was the first time we had ever photographed a bolide, and, therefore, the first we learned what happens after they occur.

No wonder twenty-five minutes later the birds were dreaming and talking in their sleep.

Browse Categories

Help Your Family Explore the Wonders of God's Creation

Full color magazine delivered to your door + digital access. Subscribe now for just $5 a month!

Buy Magazine: $5/month

Buy Magazine + Study Guide: $7.50/month

Buy Gift Subscription