The 2012 Perseids meteor shower is due to entertain us on the nights of August 11th and 12th but early and late meteors maybe seen a week either side of the meteor peak on Sunday between 13:00 and 15:30 BST
I thought I would post up some more information that may help you obtain some images of the meteor shower if the weather behaves itself.
The fast and bright Perseids meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero, which at midnight on the 12th will be in the North East shown below in the Starry Night screen capture.
You can see the waning crescent moon just breaking the horizon at midnight so it shouldn’t interfere with any observing or imaging plans. Also present in the night sky will be the Seven Sisters, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
You should plan on viewing from an hour after sunset on Saturday evening until the early hours of the morning as the meteor activity should increase as the night goes on. Sunday evening should also produce a good number of trails.
The Perseids meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains and can produce over 50 meteors an hour.
To observe the meteors you can look in pretty much any direction but East to South at a high altitude of 60 degrees would be a good direction to see any meteor trails ‘side-on’ rather than looking directly North East at the radiant where the meteors trails will be seen head-on. Don’t be surprised if you see them in all regions of the sky Due East could be an interesting view at dark sites as the Milky Way will also be visible.
Photographing meteors is relatively simple, the hard part is getting the meteors in the frame which needs some luck. Setting up your camera looking North East towards the radiant can give good results but by offsetting your view towards the East and South you increase the chance of seeing and photographing the longer meteor trails.
Angling your camera upwards towards an altitude of 60 degrees will give you coverage of the zenith and down towards an altitude of 30 degrees with a wide angle lens. This view will also tend to reduce the effects of light pollution coming up from the ground.
The exposure you will need, or can use, depends a lot on where you are. Under dark skies you might be able to shoot exposures of a minute or more at high iso settings, but for most of us 30 seconds will be as long as we can use without being overly affected by light pollution.
A typical check list would be:
- Set up the camera and wide angle lens on a tripod and aim towards the South East at an angle of 60 degrees.
- Set the aperture to wide open and then stop down one or two stops to improve the image quality, f2.8-f4 will be fine for most camera systems.
- Set the lens to manual focus and try to get the best possible focus on the stars.
- Set the camera shutter speed to 30 seconds
- Take an image and see if the light pollution is overpowering the image, if it is then reduce the iso setting, if the light pollution is low then increase the iso setting. Like most things in photography the settings will be a compromise balancing light pollution against sensitivity, I would expect to be using iso 800 @ f4.
- Use a remote release and shoot images continuously while you sit back and enjoy the view. If you don’t have a remote release an elastic band wrapped around the camera body and pressing down against the shutter button may work for you.
To maximise the probability of photographing the meteors you need to be shooting photographs as quickly as possible with the minimum delay between frames. To keep this delay to a minimum turn off all the noise reduction features of your camera.
If you see a meteor which you think might be photographed by your camera make a note of the time so you can check the results later on.