Monday, 19 November 2012

Sky At Night

We had a rare clear sky a the weekend that coincided with the Leonid meteor shower (well one day late actually). I've not seen a meteor shower since my youth when I lay on the lawn (slightly inebriated I suspect) in the beer garden of a local pub.

I've always had an interest in the night sky and had been considering photographing a meteor shower for some time. I'd done my research, but had not managed to find a clear night on which a shower was due. All right, I'd usually forgotten to check my diary and missed most. So on discovering the news of a meteor shower I took my camera outside into the garden just after midnight to see what I could manage.

The Milky Way
The Milky Way

I located the area of the sky the meteors should be seen and set-up my camera with a wide angle lens to maximise the chances of capturing a meteor in the sky. I set-up the camera's intervalometer to make continuous exposures for 2 hours in the hope that I would capture a meteor or two in that time.

By now my eyes had become well adjusted to the dark and I became aware of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, so clear overhead along with a fantastic number of stars. The local council have recently been turning off the street lights at midnight as part of it's austerity measures to save money and this has removed a large part of the light pollution that usually hides most stars. It was too much to resist and it wasn't long before my camera was being repositioned!

I included some of my house for perspective. A neighbour's outside light was illuminating the wall of the house (have they not heard of austerity?) and the warm glow gave a nice contrast to the cool dark sky above. Happy with this image I turned the camera back to the meteors and re-stared the intervalometer. I planned to leave it for a couple of hours before bringing it in so retired to bed for a little sleep.

What, No Meteors?
What, No Meteors?

The next morning I woke to see the first rays of sunlight coming through the curtains. I'd slept in! The camera was covered frost but the memory card contained over 250 images. I imported these into my computer and impatiently scanned through them looking for a meteor. Not a single one! However the images I did have made an interesting, if brief, time-lapse video of the earth's rotation.

Undeterred by the lack of meteors the experience has given me plenty of enthusiasm explore night photography (still and time-lapse) further. I have a few ideas for suitable locations. Now all I need to work on is rehearsing my explanation for lurking suspiciously in the local church yard in the dark for 3 hours in case someone should call the local constabulary!

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