PetaPixel

Shooting Stars: Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks November 17

3822439923_7f57ce823b

Keep your eyes on the sky — NASA says next week’s Leonid Meteor Shower may be the best of its kind in years.

The meteor shower, which will peak on November 17th at around 1am PST (4am EST) over the Americas, coincides with the new moon phase. In other words, the stars will appear brighter and meteors will be easier to spot–and photograph.

Meteor shower photography takes a bit of planning and consideration, but we’ve summarized and compiled some tips and resources to start you off.

Where to Go

Check the Clear Sky Chart for your geographic area to see where and when the night sky is most visible. Various factors affect visibility, such as clouds, the position of the sun, and transparency of the atmosphere (affected by variable amounts of water vapor).

Avoiding light pollution, or excessive artificial light, can also increase the relative darkness of the night sky, and more heavenly bodies are visible. Head towards the desert, mountains, farmlands, or a clearing in the park–anywhere with fewer people and street lights– for reduced light pollution.

What to Bring

Most astrophotographers recommend at the very least:

  • A tripod
  • A wide-angle lens
  • A lens cloth to wipe off nighttime dew

If you’ve got it, bring:

  • A fisheye lens and/or a lens with f/2.8
  • A remote or cable release (this reduces vibration on the actual camera)

It’s also a good idea to dress warmly, pack a flashlight, bring a picnic blanket, and bring company.

What to Do

Aim towards the Leo constellation and Mars.

In general, a reasonably high ISO/ASA (around 800-1600), long exposure (around 30 seconds) and a shallow depth of field (around f/2.8-3.5) tend to do the trick.

Note that stars move during the night, so stars will streak naturally in long exposures.

Additional Resources

Check out the Wired how-to wiki for an overview of star photographs.

Spaceweather.com has a helpful meteor photo gallery in which several photographers included the settings on which they shot.

Astrophotographer Doug Murray also offers his film shooting tips, which can be applied to digital as well.

Dpreview.com also has a forum with helpful tips on shooting meteors, asteroids, and comets.

Happy shooting, and enjoy the view!


Image credit: Shooting Stars by *BZd*


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • Pingback: فرصة جميلة قادمة لتصوير الشهب : Tasweery.com موقع تصويري للتصوير الفوتوغرافي

  • http://elbelbelb2000.blogtog.com/ Eugene

    I am not sure I agree with the suggestion to use high ISO (800 to 1600). At such long exposures (30 seconds or more), noise tends to get amplified. I would actually recommending shooting as low an ISO as possible with a wide angle lens.

    If one is shooting on a dSLR, I actually recommending shooting in bulb mode. Here, the advantage of a lower ISO is also apparent: we would be able to take exposures of longer than thirty seconds to create some dramatic star trails! Of course, to shoot in bulb mode, it would help to have a release cable to trigger the shutter on and off!

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    I think what you're saying is true for normal astrophotography at much higher exposure times. However, in the case of capturing shooting stars, the time you have for the shooting star to expose your film/sensor is much short, so the film/sensor needs to be much more sensitive. If you're taking a 5 or 10 minute exposure of star trails, a shooting star that travels quickly and lasts only 1 or 2 seconds probably won't show up in your photograph (or it would be extremely faint and overwhelmed by the star trails).

    Looking around at the shooting star photographs on Flickr, they seem to all be using ISO 1600.

  • Pingback: links for 2009-11-12 at Ik enzo

  • http://elbelbelb2000.blogtog.com/ Eugene

    Michael, you make an excellent point regarding the difference between “normal” astrophotography vs. photographing “shooting stars.” My impression was to capture the entire sequence of the meteor shower (however long it lasts), but of course, if the exposure time is too long, there will be “interference” from star trails. I think the advantage of longer capture times is that you don't have to worry about perfect timing as well – unless you know in which one or two seconds the meteor shower will be most striking/visible/apparent :).

    Maybe Petapixel readers can contribute or share their photos of the Leonid Meteor Shower and we'll see what different settings people used?

  • http://elbelbelb2000.blogtog.com/ Eugene

    Michael, you make an excellent point regarding the difference between “normal” astrophotography vs. photographing “shooting stars.” My impression was to capture the entire sequence of the meteor shower (however long it lasts), but of course, if the exposure time is too long, there will be “interference” from star trails. I think the advantage of longer capture times is that you don't have to worry about perfect timing as well – unless you know in which one or two seconds the meteor shower will be most striking/visible/apparent :).

    Maybe Petapixel readers can contribute or share their photos of the Leonid Meteor Shower and we'll see what different settings people used?

  • Pingback: Leonid Meteror Shower Peaks Tonight [Featured] | Bowl of Serial

  • Pingback: 10 Most Popular PetaPixel Posts of 2009