Spending a Night Watching Shooting Stars

By August 23, 2015Fine Art, Nature, Scenic

For years, I’ve wanted to stay up and watch the Perseid meteor shower and try to get some photos. With the way life goes, though, it never worked out. Either the weather didn’t cooperate, it was a full moon, or work got in the way of staying up all night. This year, the stars were aligned and the moon was new. (Yeah, I know, that’s a groaner, but I just couldn’t resist.)

I originally planned on driving up to the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, the weather up there called for pretty good cloud cover most of the night. I was feeling a bit discouraged, but was determined to find someplace that might work. The weather around Lake Winnipesaukee looked much better and I remembered a scenic pull-off from the highway near Mt. Major that overlooked the lake. That was it, then.

Grabbing some snacks and a couple of blankets, I headed out about 9:30. They say that the meteor shower is usually best in the early morning hours, so I was in no rush to get going. A little after ten I pulled into the pull-out. It was a beautiful night, but a bit breezy.

The meteors were actually fairly steady when I first got there until about 11:30 or so. After that, they were a little less frequent until around 3:30. Unfortunately, the sky started lightening not long after that.

One thing I didn’t expect was how much traffic there would be along the road most of the night. It had been awhile since I had been in that area, so I had forgotten how close the scenic overlook spot was to the road. There were a few shots that caught some glare from passing cars. Other people had the same idea for watching the meteor shower. Another photographer spent the night there shooting and a mom and son spent the night just enjoying the sky show.

Photographers use different techniques for shooting meteors. While 50 -100 meteors an hour sounds exciting (and it is to watch), that means roughly one every 30-60 seconds. To keep the motion of the stars minimal, you need exposures of less than 30 seconds. That means you’re lucky to get one or two shooting stars in an exposure when factoring in the ones that zip by between exposures or in another part of the sky. You often have to end up doing a composite to get more than one meteor in an image.

I did get some nice Milky Way shots and several with meteors. Since I have a remote that I can set to take a set number of images at set times, I was able to get a short nap while the camera was clicking away on its own. Regardless of the photos, I still enjoyed just being out watching the shooting stars.

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