As the Moon sets early this year, it's the perfect time to see the Eta-Aquarids. The night sky will be beautifully dark during the best viewing hours, and the Eta-Aquarids will look amazing.
At its peak, the eta-Aquarid Meteor Shower will be visible from the evening of 6th May to the morning of 7th May with up to 50 meteors an hour. Check it out on both nights. In the off-peak times, you can see up to 30 meteors an hour.
During the evenings leading up to the peak, there won't be as much moonlight. Try to watch between the 2nd and 6th of May if you can.
How to watch.
A meteor shower doesn't require a telescope or binoculars. According to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, the best way to view the meteors is to lay flat on your back while looking straight up. That position will give the largest view of the sky without neck strain.
Look east under Jupiter and Saturn which both appear as bright white stars in a near- vertical single file.
It’s best to view a meteor shower under a dark night sky. Most meteors will be quite faint so darker surroundings will make it easier to see them.
How To Photograph Meteors And Meteor Showers
The first point of call is a brief look at the equipment you’ll need.
Camera: A modern digital camera with a Manual mode. Full frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds type cameras are ideal.
Lens: Wide or super-wide angle lenses are best for meteor showers. Your chances of catching a meteor will increase the shorter your focal length. Perfect lenses for this job are 14mm to 35mm for full-frame (or around 10mm to 50mm for APS-C) with the widest aperture of f/2.8 or less. Shoot at the lowest f-stop you can. When your aperture opens very wide, you can stop it down a bit to preserve sharpness and star shapes.
Tripod: The sturdier, the better to avoid shake-free shooting.
Intervalometer: You will be taking multiple frames one after another for an extended period of time so you will need an intervalometer, either as a plug-in accessory or by using the internal intervalometer that some camera models support. They’re about $40 from most stores.
Lens/Dew Heater and portable Power Bank: There’s nothing worse than shooting continuously for several hours before realizing your lens fogged up a long time ago, rendering many of the images useless. It can get cold at night, so it’s important to keep your lens dew-free for the duration of your photography session. A dew heater is a battery-powered heated element that wraps around your lens to keep it toasty and ward off the dew. Remember to charge the power bank before you leave home! Again, these aren’t much more than about $30 in cost.
Spare battery: Continuous shooting will drain your battery, particularly in the cold, so make sure you have a backup battery in case you run out of juice.
Now your camera settings need to be just right.
The process of photographing meteors is very similar to that used for general night photography. We won’t cover the settings in great detail here, but you can find more information on recommended settings in our guide on astrophotography for beginners.
Firstly, make sure you are shooting in Manual mode. If you plan to post-process your images later, make sure you are shooting in RAW file format. Large JPEG file format is fine if you don’t plan to process your shots.
Once you’ve framed your composition of the sky, use the Live View function of your camera to digitally zoom into a star or distant light source to manually set your focus. It’s a good idea to do this with your dew heater on, if you have one, so that the focus point is not accidentally shifted when it’s attached. You can also stick some tape on your lens to stop the focus ring moving.
With your lens aperture at f/2.8 or lower, use the ‘500-rule’ to set your shutter speed. Start with an ISO of 3200 or 6400 and adjust from there (take a few test shots to find out what works best for your location). If you have Long Exposure Noise Reduction (LENR) enabled on your camera, switch this off… you are guaranteed to miss the best meteors while your camera is creating a noise reduction frame!
You are now primed for action! Set your intervalometer to run for as long as you can, with 2 or 3-second intervals between exposures to maximize your chances of capturing a streaking meteor or fireball. Get comfortable, sit back and enjoy the celestial entertainment while your camera does all the hard work!
Have fun you lot and please tag us in any shots you grab!