How to photograph meteors, including the Perseids on August 14th

A Geminid meteor over the Caldera de Taburiente, captured by Christoph Marlin
A Geminid meteor over the Caldera de Taburiente, captured by Christoph Marlin



The Perseid meteor shower is already here, and it will reach its peak on August 12th as the Earth passes through the dust left by comet. If you want to photograph shooting stars, use a wide angle lens with a large aperture, set the ISO to 800 or higher, and use a tripod. It’s no good chasing meteors around the sky – chose one spot and stick to it. It night lower your blood pressure to set up several cameras to reduce the odds of missing a great one. If you point the camera at the radiant, you’re more likely to get something, but they’ll be short streaks. If you point it 90º away from the radiant, you’ll get fewer meteor streaks, but they’ll be longer ones.

It helps if you can take long exposures. With a wide angle lens, you can usually go up to about 30 seconds before the stars move noticeably. However, in most of the UK the light pollution will washout your picture long before that. Get as far away from city lights as you can, and experiment to see how long you can expose for until the sky gets too pale. Of course the island of La Palma has the best night sky in Europe, and it’s easy to find dark skies and interesting foregrounds.

The attached photo was taken on La Palma by Christoph Marlin of The World at Night (TWAN). TWAN will hold their first international conference on La Palma from September 29th – October 2nd, 2015. They will discuss the aims of the organisation and technical aspects of nightscape photography.

To further improve your night landscapes, you can sign up for Astromaster, a 5-day, intensive workshop on nightscape photography and time lapses which will run from October 3rd -8th 2015.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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