Friday, August 05, 2011

Perseid Meteor Showers in August


It's that time of the year again! The annual Perseid Meteor Shower is underway. This year the peak nights of the shower will coincide with a full moon. This will obscure all but the brightest meteors, but there are still some decent opportunities for photography. Try early morning hours over the next few nights, after the moon has set. Even when the moon is in the sky you can shoot North-facing shots to face away from the moon and capture the brightest meteors, as well as star trails around the North Star, Polaris.

The meteors will appear to come from the radiant constellation Perseus, not far from Cassiopeia (a giant W you can spot more or less opposite the North Star from the Big Dipper). Get out someplace dark and clear, and enjoy the show! Best viewing hours are 11pm - 4:30am as the Eastern half of your sky rotates around to the leading side of the earth as we hurtle through space at 69,360 MPH around the sun (574,585 MPH relative to the Milky Way, another 1,339,200 MPH relative to other galaxies).

The moon sets at 11:30pm tonight, then roughly another hour later each night, so get outside in the early morning hours and watch the show, and capture star shots while the stars remain bright in the moonless sky.

Read down a few posts on my blog to see tips on capturing Milky Way or star trails photos. To maximize your odds of capturing some bright meteors, simply trigger your exposures as fast as your camera will go. I use an external "intervalometer" timer/trigger to start the next exposure one second after the previous one. By capturing dozens or hundreds of exposures in a row, you can capture many meteors over the course of many minutes or hours.

The photo at the top of this blog entry is a link to a whole album of Perseid Meteor Shower photos from past years. Go check them out for some inspiration or ideas!