Misleading meteor photo

14/08/2010

Pick of the pics

Misleading use of a meteor photo

British newspapers today print a Reuters photo of Stonehenge that includes a single meteor from Thursday night’s Perseid shower. Some papers convey the impression that every streak in the photo is a meteor, when in fact all bar one near-vertical streak are just stars inching across the sky as the Earth turns during a long exposure of the camera.

As the photo is copyrighted I’ll not post it here, but you can see a typical offender at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-world/2010/08/14/stone-me-what-a-weird-shower-115875-22486527/

The Guardian has it correctly captioned at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/gallery/2010/aug/13/perseid-meteor-shower#/?picture=365714247&index=5

A big meteor shower is well worth watching, and it’s nice to know you’re flying through the dust trail of a comet – Comet Swift-Tuttle in the case of the Perseids. The best I saw was from a small boat at sea — again the Perseids, which come conveniently in the summer sailing season. But you’re lucky if you spot one or two shooting stars every few minutes. Journalistic hyperbole can leave non-astronomers feeling disappointed.