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Photographing the 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid meteor shower
|Meteor Shower|2 Comments
2015 Perseid Meteor Shower

I captured one perseid meteor from my backyard – better luck next year!

2015 Perseid Meteor Shower

Above photo taken August 13th, 2015 – 12:22am

I was not able to travel to a pretty location to shoot the Perseids last night, so I just set up shop in the backyard! I planted my Canon 7D firmly on my tripod, and aimed above my house towards the constellation Perseus, and above. Using Backyard EOS, I set the camera to shoot 200 – 25 second exposures, at ISO 800. Then I went to bed!  Unfortunately my battery died after 160 exposures. Luckily though, I didn’t end up empty handed as this meteoroid streaked through the bottom left of the frame above at around 12:00am:)



I used some “creative” processing for the photo above. You may feel that the image is just a tad heavy on the blue! The light-pollution over my house produced a nasty gradient, and a even-black sky really pronounced this. Since the focus of this image is the tiny Perseid meteoroid on the bottom left anyway, I decided to enhance the blue levels to create a more pleasing, although somewhat unnatural looking night sky. Normally, I prefer my RGB black point to be set at roughly 32-32-33.

 

Backyard astrophotography

So many frames, so few meteors

About the Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower is traditionally the most spectacular and most-reliable show of the year. The evening of August 12th through the morning of August 13th is the peak time for sky watchers.

Before all else, the biggest factor in a successful image (or viewing) of the Perseid meteor shower for 2015 is dark skies! This means getting away from the bright city lights that wash out the night sky, and prevent us from seeing all but the brightest of meteoroids. An unobstructed view of the North-Eastern sky and overhead is also ideal. This year’s display could be the best since 2010 due to that fact that we have the advantage of having a moonless sky. Experts predict anywhere from 75-100 meteoroids per hour at its peak under the right conditions! Realistically, you can expect to see a streak of light every few minutes or so.

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower of 2013 – Photo by Trevor Jones

I captured this photo in 2013, when the Perseids peaked 5 days after the new moon. Notice the streaking cosmic particle at the lower right of frame. You can also just barely make out the California nebula above the streaking meteoroid!  I have learned a lot since this photo was taken 2 years ago, I hope to get a great shot tomorrow night. This year will be even darker, with a chance to see more “shooting stars”.

Photographing the 2015 Perseid Meteor shower

Make sure you can find the constellation Perseus in the night sky. It is located below the recognizable constellation of Cassiopeia, which I always think of it as a big “W”. You will want attach your camera to a sturdy tripod and aim it roughly towards that constellation.  A nice wide-field lens would really helps increase your chances of getting a great shot. This year, I plan on using the widest lens I own, my Canon L series 17-40mm. A kit lens that goes back to 18mm will also work just fine. Make sure you stay up nice and late, so Perseus is nice and high in the sky. Have a look at the handy reference photo provided by Sky and Telescope.
Where to look for Perseid Meteors

Radiant point of the Perseid Meteor Shower

 

While in manual mode on your DSLR, try setting a slow enough shutter speed to increase your chances of a meteor streak, but not so slow that the stars begin to trail themselves. I prefer to have pinpoint stars with the streaking meteor blazing through them. For the photo above, I used a shutter speed of 20 seconds, an ISO of 1600, with my lens aperture set to F4. Keep in mind that I was away from city light-pollution.

I sat next to my tripod, and continuously pressed the shutter button for a period of about one hour (fun eh!?) in hopes of catching a real burner.  An automatic timer or camera control through a laptop would make things much easier. Just look at what is possible when you have the right equipment, conditions, and creativity:

Photo of a meteor shower by Ken Brandon
Perseid Meteor Shower photo by Kenneth Brandon

The meteor shower occurs when earth travels through a debris-stream of comet particles, in this case, Comet Swift-Tuttle. The reason this annual meteor shower is called “The Perseids” is because the “shooting stars” appear to originate from a single point (or radiant) in the constellation of Perseus.
The best part about meteor showers is that you don’t need any optical aids like binoculars or telescopes to enjoy them, just your eyes. Okay, a lawn chair might come in handy, so make sure you have one of those! Most importantly, make a night of it with friends or family! Enjoy the excitement of the 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower, and watching the night sky light up with each other.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Any idea what the histogram should look like? Don't know much about shooting the night sky.

  2. Trevor Jones says:

    Hi Shawn, I would recommend that your histogram have the image data in the centre, or slightly to the right. Light-pollution will affect this greatly. As long as you expose the image long enough to reveal detail, without over-exposing, you will be able to pull it back in post-processing. For the image I took last night, my histogram was just about in the center on the graph. Hope that helps, and good luck!

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