Thatcher Comet causing Meteor Shower Apr 21st

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by BYoung, Mar 25, 2008.

  1. BYoung

    BYoung TPF Noob!

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    So I love the sky and space so when anything cool comes up I try to study it a bit before it happens. I've searched the forums looking for some info on how to capture a Meteor Shower but I couldn't find the info I was really looking for. So I thought I would ask all of you seasoned photographers for your tips.

    Here is the NASA Skycal. If you haven't seen this before, you can choose your month and/or year and Time Zone, then it will show you all of NASA's known stuff. It shows eclipses, phases of the moon, if Venus or Mars is visible and neat info like Lyrids from the Thatcher Comet.

    With the Thatcher Comet coming close to Earth causing Lyrids on April 21st (as per nasa info) I had a few questions.

    1. What lens would be best for this? A f/3.5-4.5 wide angle or a 50mm f/1.8?

    2. Is it more luck then skill? I mean do you just point in an area and hope to get lucky or is there actually enough time to turn the camera and press the shutter button?

    3. A tripod is a must, also mirror lockup & a remote cable would help reduce shake to get the crispest picture possible. Is there anything else you can think of to make the images their best?

    But if any of you know any info that would help out getting pictures of this show I would be in your debt.
     
  2. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    From what I know about Meteor Showers (It's Not much) It's a bit of both, there should be time to be deliberate in your shots however location is going to play part in your field of view and visibility requiring a bit of luck, but I could be wrong.

    I would prolly use either a 35mm or a 50mm lens myself being in the city and having to work that night.
     
  3. schuylercat

    schuylercat TPF Noob!

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    You know, I thought Space.com had axis information, as well as peak times nd other data, for photographers. If you look there you'll see images where the camera was set to bulb and the shutter left open for hours, with meteors caught as multiple steaks and the stars making that big pretty arc.

    A friend of mine said 60 second exposures, shot consecutively, worked for the Persieds a few months back: he pointed me to a site that where NASA said there would be an "average of 40-60 meteors per hour, peaking at up to 80 per hour." A 60 second shot would catch at least one meteor...of course, there are no rules, you might get 2-3 per frame or none for ten frames, and besides I couldn't shoot (clouds for days here).

    Keep this thread going - let me know if you find more (better than mine, anyway) advice!
     
  4. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Good question, and each has its own merits. The f/1.8 collects 3.8x more light than the f/3.5 when both are opened all the way. If you know where the radiant is (the position in the sky from which the meteors originate, in this case the direction of Lyra), then you could probably get by with the 50 mm lens. However, I would suggest that if your wide-angle is sufficiently wider than the 50 mm that you use that and simply boost the ISO from, say, 100 to 200 to help offset the loss of light.

    The wider angle will allow more sky to be seen and increase your chances of actually getting a meteor (see next point). In my one experience of shooting a shower (Perseids last fall), the actual meteor was fairly bright, but I was using an f/1.4 stopped down to f/1.8.


    Yes, it's much more luck than skill. While they will originate from the radiant, they can go in pretty much any direction from that, and they will brighten reasonably far away from the radiant.


    You didn't say if you were doing this so I don't know if you were planning, but you pretty much just set up the camera and press the shutter, and then wait. Take long exposures - as long as you can without saturating. With the above setup, the stars will appear as small trails (unless you're taking exposures shorter than ~15-30 seconds), but the meteors will appear as long lines through them. Alternatively, if you have a mount that tracks the sky, then you can use that to keep the stars as points.
     
  5. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    The problem with this is that the sky covers 180°. A 50 mm lens on an uncropped body offers 26°x39° for a field of view; on a cropped body it's more like 17°x25°. So even if you have 1000 meteors per hour (~15 per minute), you'd still be lucky to actually capture it in your field of view.

    This is why my first (and only) high-quality lens is a 35 mm f/1.4L.
     
  6. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Stu, if you had a choice of 12-24mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8 or a 35mm f/2... which would be the better? I'm thinking 35mm f/2.
     
  7. BYoung

    BYoung TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the great reply's.

    I was hoping I would get lucky and not use bulb mode since it would look so much cooler if the stars weren't streaks, but that would reduce the chances of actually catching one to a very low percentage. I didn't look into prices for a tracking mount but I'm sure its more then I want to spend right now.

    After reading this page at Space.com, I realized you guys are right in using "bulb" and taking a sequence of long exposures. On the right side of the page there is some pictures that link to comet pictures. They actually lists what the camera was set to which is priceless.

    That is a nice lens and I wish I could afford one. I was assuming the lower f/stop your lens had the better off you were for this type of thing. I was looking at the Canon 10-22mm or Sigma 10-20mm but they aren't nearly as fast as that 35mm but more in my price range.

    If I find anymore info I will be sure to post it. Keep up the great suggestions :)
     
  8. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    I would agree. I use the lens all the time - I shot an entire Hawai'i trip on it. My next lens purchase (this summer) will be a 70-200 mm f/2.8L, and the lens after that will be the 24-70 mm f/2.8L.


    You don't have to use the bulb setting, you can limit your exposure time. It just gets much more frustrating because after 20 10-second exposures and not catching anything you're sick of it, whereas after 1 200-second exposure you're ready to take a second one.

    If you do use the bulb setting, you have to limit the length of the exposure until your detector saturates.
     

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