Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

The Perseids Meteor Shower

I bundled up a kit to shoot the meteors and set up at Comanche Springs on Thursday, August 8. A storm blew up and knocked my mount over destroying a pair of 120mm clamps. The mount and telescope were unharmed.


Jeff arrived on Friday and we set the campus for the star party. Friday night I got my first round of images going with the new Canon 60Da. I used Backyard EOS for capture. I soon realized the nifty fifty lens set at f/1.8 was producing "seagull" stars, so that night's work was pretty well wasted. I did manage to capture three meteors in about 400 subframes shot at 30 seconds duration.


Saturday night I upped the ISO to 400 and set the f stop at 4. The stars were tamed and I set out in earnest to get some meteors. I shot around 600 subs, and pulled 12 meteors, which I will process and post today.


I learned that one needs a fisheye or extreme wide angle lens to capture meteors; the nifty fifty just doesn't buy enough real estate. I was pointing directly at the middle of the radiant between Cass and Perseus. Most of the meteors were appearing around 30 degrees to either side. It looks like the optimum setup would be to use the UFOCapture software JOhn Davis uses at Bucksnort on his all sky cam.






I priced the Canon product and have determined I will probably purchase a 8mm or 14mm Samyung lens for future meteor shoots. I like the idea of stacking RAW meteor data and producing a composite image as opposed to shooting JPGs.


Dave Drummond got a great fireball shot Sunday night at CSAC:





I have discovered that I was way off in my strategy for getting clean meteor data. I used low ISO numbers thinking it would reduce noise in my RAW subs. Wrong! The meteors needed more sensitivity, like in the order of ISO3200 rather than ISO400. I shot 30 second subs, which was ok, and I used a tracking GEM mount which was probably unnecessary. I could have used a fixed tripod or sky tracker on a photo tripod. I also needed the WF lens as mentioned above. Good to know for future meteor showers. I will try to pick up a lens before the Leonids, or maybe in time for the Orionids this Fall.






I finally got enough data to compile an image. This is 16 of 300 subs shot Monday night and Tuesday morning August 12-13. I had severe vertical banding in the image and had to really trick it with Photoshop. Processing meteors from short exposure RAW files is all new to me! This accomplished what I set out to do; my First Light imaging a meteor shower. I learned a lot from the experience, and should have better results next time out. I looked ahead, and the next five or six events will have a Full Moon! Not good, but at least I won't need to spend money on a new lens for about a year!


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