The Perseid meteor shower for 2008 Tips and Tricks

The Perseid meteor shower for 2008 peaks in the morning hours of Tuesday, August 12th. The best views will be after 2.00am when the moon sets.

This is called the “Perseid” meteor shower because, from our view, the meteors seem to come from the area in the sky which includes the constellation Perseus. This constellation rises around 11.00pm and will be high in the northern skies all night.

If it’s a good shower, you might get to see sixty meteors an hour.

What you need to observe them:

Darkest skies possible. If you can, get as far away from the city (and any lights) as you are able.

Despite it being summer, it gets chilly late at night. Bring a jacket, blanket, etc.

Bug spray. Skeeters love to bite.

You can either bring a reclining lawn chair or lay on the ground, it’s your call.
(We always bring some tunes, plus snacks and drinks).

Bring a red-filtered flashlight. The red light won’t ruin your night vision like a white-light will. You want your pupils to be as dilated as possible to see as much of the sky as you can.

Some photography tips (since this IS the topic):

Use a semi wide-angle lens. Not too wide, because the meteors will look really tiny in your images. If you have a crop-sensor camera, nothing wider than 28-35mm.

Use manual focus, and make sure you are focused on the stars. That means infinity. Now, I’ve found that lenses for DLSR’s have a “range” for infinity focus. Just turning the focus ring all the way to the infinity stop won’t work. If you can, focus on a radio tower or some other bright objects far away. If you can focus on a star, that’s even better (Live View works great with this). Take a few shots and look at the image on your LCD screen, zooming up to see if the stars are pinpoints.

Because the stars move across the sky during the night, you will get star trails. Keep you exposures to around 5 to 10 minutes or so. This means you will more than likely need a remote release. :)

Point your camera in the general area towards the north-northeastern sky. As the night goes on, you might want to shift where it is pointed. The closer you are pointed to the radiant (where the meteors appear to emanate from) the shorter the meteor trails. Also, if you notice an area where meteors are more frequent, you can point there. Try different areas of the sky.

Start with an ISO of 400. If you can, and your camera gives good results, you can boost it to 800, but I wouldn’t go any higher.

Shoot as close to wide-open as you can. I would suggest ½ stop smaller than your widest aperture. Many Perseids are faint, and you need to wide-open aperture. Yeha, there are really bright ones as well (I saw a really bright one last night while imaging the moon).

If you get one or two going through the field of view (you think), just stop the exposure and start a new one.

Use NR at your discretion. Remember, if you take a 10 minute shot, you will get a 10 minute NR exposure as well, so you’ve wasted 10 minutes. You can always do your noise reduction during post processing.

Watch out for dew! Depending on how much humidity is in the air, your lens will dew/fog up. Have some way to clean off the lens.

Make sure your batteries are fully charged.

Have a nice sturdy tripod.


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