May 23-24, 2014 Pipestone MN Meteors, Waterfall, Controlled Burn and Satellite Fuel Dump

Having had little to chase, it was an easy choice to keep the May Camelopardalids, a brand new fairly hyped meteor shower, honest.  Had to drive north to find clear skies though.  3 hours north to Pipestone MN.  Chris and Jesse found the national monument there, with a waterfall for a photo op with it.  Yet we get there and the place is burning all over.  Evidently a controlled burn.  One which no one would even come and check on all night.  So now we had a waterfall and fire for back up photography ops, as meteor showers seldom pan out well.  20 second exposure above.

It was fairly messed up how long the top of this tree could burn and not run out of wood or break down completely.  It was going all night long. 

Stacking the frames for the star trail presented a challenge for the fire areas.  Here's a shorter example with less fire blow out.  Note the frown face up there.

A couple of the brighter streaks were branches on fire falling off.  2 of them sounded like a jet engine as they did so. 

This angle looked really cool.  One problem, the tree was leaning this way, as was its top.  It could fall at any moment.  The weight would suck on its own but mostly just the whole on fire part was discouraging.  Still I had to shoot this angle.  Finally talked myself into doing it and getting back out of there while the camera shot.  What follows would make me pretty damn annoyed I put the camera where I did.

Crop in during those shots.  Note white streak with faint streak with it.  So me and Chris were standing back over out of the way, as the cameras shot.  Jesse by himself over at the waterfall.  We were looking at our phone/tablet screens.  The meteors just weren't happening, so we weren't watching for them very hard.  We look up from our screens and were floored by what was above us.  From the horizon to zenith was a big white glowing pillar of light.  We were flipping out, "what is that!?"  We watch a lot of night skies and had never seen such a thing.  We thought it had to be a fireball that made it.  Like on the level of the one in Russia recently.  And we just never saw the flash while staring at our screens.  Then we thought, that has to be a light over the trees reflecting up through the smoke/haze or something.  If it was a fireball I thought, ok it's going to be damn loud when the boom gets here.  As the glowing thing was way way bigger than the above starting phase, which we never saw happen.  The boom wasn't arriving though.  It then began to look just like an aurora pillar, just a really big one.  And at first it did have this small skinny brighter area in the middle of it.  It was just very large as we looked up and saw it.  We wondered what the heck could even be lighting it up. 

I kept thinking, I should get my camera and shoot this to capture it.  But I'd just gotten it setup under the tree of death for a star trail.  I also thought, well I know it is in my camera frame anyway.  But what happened was, this went down just left and then just behind and exiting right of the tree, leaving the big bright wide thing lined up perfectly behind the damn tree!  This above is what I got of it starting out.  Turns out it was a satellite dump.  I guess a rocket goes up, putting a satellite in orbit, then must dump its fuel.  Here is surely the satellite and rocket... Japanese Hii ALOS2

Some other people got it from the northwest.  It must have dumped right on top of us though, as it was way wider than what theirs show.  I'll have to link Chris' video if he ever gets it on his site, as his camera was right next to me but having it left of the tree.  

I finally grabbed my camera from the tree 10 minutes later.  This was what was left of our crazy white streak, now going down the horizon. It was that wide above us before though, from horizon to zenith.  Ugg wish I had just went and moved my camera the second we saw it.  I would have never thought it was lining up perfectly behind the damn tree.  What are the odds.  Neither of us ever seen such a thing and I JUST put my camera so its lined up behind this tree on fire, which on its own was an odd enough thing to find this night lol.  Just put it there and moved it around some before settling on the angle I put it, then that happens above us.  14mm vertical full frame is like 114 degrees or something.  More than horizon to zenith for an angle. The tree from that angle matched the thing perfectly.  Like after the satellite went by and the big trail was left behind.  That thing is clearly dead centered on my tree in the trail.  I can see the edge of the glow on the single frames, on either side of the tree.  Least I did move it over here and get this shot above.  Mostly to see if it showed up as aurora on the shot.  The other oddity was that there was a KP5 storm going on and the chance it was aurora related.  Though doubtful given how high up and solo it was. 

Moved over to where Jesse was, shooting the waterfall.  Pretty cool op.  Must do it on some good aurora night, if those ever happen again.  As this is facing north. 

Nice little spot one can climb out onto some rocks from and shoot it.  Lost my flashlight into the water here though lol.  Lost my cable release in the fire area somewhere just before.  And boy was the smoke a little rough.  We were always standing right in a smoke plume from something.  The upside, which I didn't realize till later, there were zero mosquito problems.

We blew it in a way though.  Chris had the steel wool deal with.  If there was ever a time and place to mess with that, it was either of these places in there, especially the fire areas! What the hell were we thinking to not be doing it.

I started the drive back home around 4 a.m.  It sucked.  But the above was shot looking nne up the interstate at 4:30.  I was pretty amazed there was as much twilight at 4:30 as there was and also how far north it seemed centered.  I took this shot just to make sure it wasn't aurora.  Moon over in the cirrus. 

Click for a video timelapse of the one scene.  MP4 file. 

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