Orionid Meteor Shower this weekend October 2012

Arizona Night Sky 

Meteor Showers can be spectacular or a bust. I remember my first encounter with meteor showers was in college backpacking in Colorado in the Maroon Bells. It was in August, so it was the Perseid Meteor shower. Up at 12,000 feet, the view was spectacular. It was like God was setting off fireworks in the sky. This coming weekend, the Orionid Meteor shower will take place. Since the moon will be setting before the meteors are apparent, there is a good chance for dark sky observation. If you don’t know about any dark sky close to you, go to cleardarksy.com and poke around for your area. It even gives forecasts for cloud cover, wind, temperature and darkness. For more information on the Orionids, go to Earth Sky web. If you listen to National Public Radio, you will already be familiar with them as they give astronomy update on the radio.

Arches NP Star Trails 

Now once you’ve found a spot, how to you take images of meteors? Well, it is like lightning photography, in a way (before we had Lightning sensors like the Lightning Bug), you simply opened up your shutter and once you saw lighting, then you closed the shutter. Well, for meteors, first you need to set an exposure that captures the stars well. Play with your ISO until you get a sensitive enough setting. Usually you will want to be close to wide open on your aperture and try exposure times of 5-30 seconds. If you want a point star and not a star trail, a shorter exposure will be needed and this depends on the lens you use (fisheye or 16-20 mm can use a longer exposure before apparent trails appear). Make sure you are in Manual Mode where you control the Aperture and Shutter Speed. Once you find the correct exposure for the sky, then start clicking. The idea is to have the shutter open for long enough to capture the entire meteor streak. If you want to build up multiple meteor streaks, you can do that in 2 ways. One is to layer the images in Photoshop (I sense a blog about that next week). The other is to use the multiple exposure feature on your camera. Make sure to turn the Auto Gain off for this type of photography.

South Africa night sky

Bottom line is to be out there early Saturday morning (between 12 midnight and predawn) and early Sunday morning (between 12 midnight and predawn).

Go to my Vimeo sight to see stars from Cherohala Skyway.

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