How and where to photograph meteor showers in the Australian sky | Astronomy
Three meteor showers will light up the skies in eastern Australia this weekend, giving astronomers the opportunity to photograph the fireballs as they blaze across the sky.
But capturing a meteor shower isn’t as easy as pulling out your iPhone and hitting the button.
The light show started Thursday night with the Piscis Austrinids and will be followed by the Southern Delta Aquariids and Alpha Capricornids culminating on Saturday July 30.
Visibility should be best on Saturday evening as the new moon will be dark.
Astronomical Society of Victoria meteor expert Kon Stoitsis said the best place to see the shower was outside cities.
“If you look up from a light-polluted sky, you might see something like five to six meteorites per hour. From a country sky, it’s more like 40,” he said.
Stoitsis said the Alpha Capricornids were “the pick of the bunch” in terms of putting on a good show – he has fewer meteorites, but the ones he has shine brightly. The other two have more but they’re fainter, making them harder to see if you’re in a city.
To find them, all you have to do is look east, he says.
“They’re all pretty much in the same part of the sky…and they’re all visible after 11 p.m., and then they’re probably visible until 3:30 a.m..”
But capturing them is more difficult. Photographer Jay Town said if you only had one phone, it would be best to put it away and watch it.
“You need a camera, a wide-angle lens, and a tripod,” Town said. “You have to have all three, otherwise it won’t work.”
Getting a good photo can be tricky, but there are a few steps you can take.
The first is to use a wide-open lens to give you the greatest chance of capturing the shower. You also need to set up a long exposure, Town said.
“Start with a 20-second exposure,” he said. “Once you get past 30 seconds you’ll get movement in normal stars and you don’t want that – you’ll have lines everywhere. You want the stars to look sharp and the meteorites to look like streams of light.
A tripod will keep the camera from shaking, but when working with such a high exposure, even leaning on the bottom of the camera can blur the image, Town said.
“The easiest way is to use a shutter button, which means you won’t have to touch the camera, you can do it through your phone if you have an app on your phone, or you can have a shutter button physical with a cable.
“Or hold your hand over the lens, press the button and pull it out – all movement will be over the moment you move your hand.”
The most important thing, he said, was “to take lots of pictures.”
“And just hope,” he said.