If it's time for a meteor shower, you won't need a telescope, binoculars, or a high mountain to have a "star gazing" party. You might need an alarm clock to wake you in the middle of the night. But then just lying down in your own back yard will put you in the perfect spot to enjoy a great show.
What is a Meteor Shower?
A meteor shower happens when Earth passes through the path of a comet. When this happens, the bits of comet debris, most no larger than a grain of sand, create streaks of light in the night sky as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere. On any night, there can be several small meteors which shoot across the sky.
Tips for Viewing Meteor Showers
- Be sure you know which days the shower will peak.
- Find out the time of the shower’s peak in your time zone.
- Watch on the nights around the peak, too.
- Know the shower’s radiant point. The Radiant point is the point in the sky from which the meteors will appear to radiate. Once the Radiant Point has risen into your sky, you’ll see more meteors. When it’s at its highest overhead, you’ll see the most meteors.
- Find out the shower’s expected rate, or number of meteors per hour.
- You must be aware of the phase of the moon. A full moon is at its brightest and will lessen your chance of seeing many meteors. Best viewing is a new moon night
- View with friends and each of you look in a different direction so that when one sees a meteor, he can shout out to the others to look his way allowing you to see more meteors than if you view by yourself.
- Relax and enjoy the night sky.
Click here to view a calendar of meteor showers : Meteor Shower Calendar
NASA’s best tips to photograph a meteor shower.
Original story by Sarah Lewin, SPACE.com
NASA's No. 1 tip: Get away from city lights and find somewhere dark! "Too much light and it will be hard for your eyes to see fainter meteors, plus your image will get flooded with the glow of light. Turning down the brightness of the camera's LCD screen will help keep your eyes adjusted to the dark.
NASA also suggests using a tripod, because you need long exposures to capture a meteor's path across the sky. A tripod can help reduce shaking, or prop up your camera on something else if you don't have a tripod available. To keep the camera from wobbling, NASA also suggests using a self-timer or shutter release cable to start your shot rather than pressing the camera button yourself.
You should also be sure to manually focus your camera — autofocus will have trouble fixing on the night sky. Meteors can appear all over the sky, but generally, they seem to emanate from one point, called the meteor shower's radiant. Aiming your camera toward that radiant point makes it more likely that you'll pick up meteors, NASA said. Longer exposures are necessary to capture meteors, but if you leave the shutter open too long, you might catch the movement of the stars as Earth rotates. But, that can make a cool photo too.
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