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Off to the shooting star hunt: So even beginners can take great photos

Shooting star season is on. Already in April, the Lyrides provided a foretaste of the shooting star nights of the summer half year. Currently - and still active until 28 May - the meteor shower of the Eta aquarids can be seen.

During the night of 6 May the Eta aquariums reach their maximum - under ideal conditions up to 50 star sheds per hour can be expected, especially in the very early hours of the morning. The radiant, i.e. the apparent origin, of the Eta aquarids lies in the constellation Aquarius, by the way. The speed of a shooting star from this direction is about 66 km/s.

 

Ideal conditions

Ideal conditions prevail when the sky is cloudless and very dark. Moonless nights are therefore ideal, because every light disturbs the observation. Therefore, you should look at the shooting star and take pictures out of the city, in the open nature, where no artificial light disturbs. The best conditions to see many shooting stars are also present when the radiant is near the zenith - as very high in the sky, almost exactly above you.

 

The equipment

Ideally, you should use an SLR camera. Since you cannot know exactly when and where the next shooting star will flash across the sky, it is best to use a lens with a short focal length (wide-angle lens). This way you can capture a large part of the sky. Set long exposure times and always use a tripod so that the image is not blurred. Use a remote shutter release to prevent additional camera shake, as you do not have to touch the camera when releasing the shutter.

A wide range of tripods and camera accessories, such as remote shutter release, additional batteries and cleaning equipment can be found in our webshop: https://www.bresser.de/Fotostudio/

Remember that: Patience and warm clothes. Even with high fall rates, it can take a while before a shooting star "falls into the picture". So take something warm to wear, a blanket and/or a stool or deckchair.

 


These are the camera settings for good photos

It is imperative that the auto focus is removed and the camera (or lens) is set to manual focus. Otherwise the camera will constantly try to focus itself. Use the zoom function (if available) in Live View to focus. Alternatively, focus on a distant light source. With these settings, even beginners can take good photos:


- Low ISO value: An ISO value of 100 or 200 is perfectly suitable, 400 is also possible. At higher values, the image noise increases more and more. The picture then looks "grisly".

- small f-stop: To catch a lot of light, the aperture should be wide open. With f/3.5 and f/4.0 you can capture enough light.

- long exposure time: We recommend an exposure time of about 30 seconds, then you will see a few more point-like stars around the shooting stars and the picture becomes more interesting. But you can try a little bit yourself and set longer or shorter times. If you take several pictures with the same exposure time one after the other, they can be processed on the computer to a nice line trace picture.

 


If you miss the Eta aquariums, no problem: The shooting star high season has just begun.

 

Those are the next shooting star nights:


May 14 to June 24, 2020: Arietides peak on June 7 and send up to 50 shooting stars an hour.

12 July to 23 August 2020: The July Aquarids (also called Delta Aquarids) reach their maximum on 30 July - but with a comparatively low rate of falling of 25 shooting stars per hour.

14 July to 24 August 2020: The Perseids are "The" shooting star stream of the year, which every year at the height of summer provides real fireworks in the night sky. The highest fall rates are expected in the night from August 12 to 13 with around 110 shooting stars per hour.

In autumn there are two small meteor streams with a few shooting stars, the Alpha Aurigids and the Orionids. Until November you have to be patient until the next big shower - but it is worth it. Because the Leonids may send especially many meteors between November 6 and 30. In the night of 17 November the Leonids reach their maximum. In good years the Leonids can send thousands of shooting stars.

From 4 to 17 December 2020 the Geminids can be seen. On December 14 they reach their maximum with a still remarkable rate of falling of expected about 120 shooting stars per hour. With this rate they even surpass the Perseids. The Geminids are also responsible for many very bright shooting stars, so-called fireballs. The Ursids bring a premature firework to the end of the year. They form the end of the shooting star year between 17th and 26th December, but with a maximum of 10 shooting stars per hour on 22nd December.