Meteor showers: Practical steps for observing & filming shooting stars!

Above is a clip that I filmed.. last night .. .(out of about 4 hrs of filming attempt) of one of the Meteors (shooting stars).   This one was filmed about 03:27 am (British summer time)  on 13th August 2013.. near Mitcham, South London..!   Last night we were actually having the showers from 2 systems..  the now fading July’s Delta Aquarids, and the spectacular Perseids..!

It really tests patience.. and at one point, 3 days of sleeplessness was catching up with me..but i slipped into a pleasant trance-like easy state..and just had eyes open..no thought. .  and then a shooting star strikes across the vision..and Wow! And that moment of peace is priceless.

So here’s some ideas / practical suggestions  for observing & filming them..

What are shooting stars?

They are debris, chunks, pieces of comets that are orbiting the Sun..  Meteor showers occur when the Earth (in it’s orbit around the Sun pass through debris of comets..   and so e of those pieces get pulled in to Earth’s gravity, and burn up!   Most of these streaks of light can be far and brief..   but  during peak time of meteor showers, there are always many `earth grazing’ ones..   that are actually quite `slow’ …create a very bright light streak..and leave a visible light trail for a few seconds after burning up..  (I’ve seen these even last night!)

How to observe shooting stars:

I think if anyone looks at one clear (dark patch) of sky for about 20 minutes, without loosing hope..and looking around..you’ll catch one..

Preparations

Wrap up warm..  even on a warn night…when you are not moving..   body temperature goes down…And cloudless skies are ideal for Stargazing actibvities…but it also means, without cloud-cover, there are no warm air pockets being trapped between you and the clouds…so clear nights = cold nights! 🙂

Insects & Mosquito:   Have a hood or hat.  Better to even have insect repellent on you first…Failing that, a strong incense stick or 5 (one at a time) placed near you may deter most of the bugs who want ya blood!  Be fully covered…socks..neck-scarf.    Nothing worse than waking up next day feeling bite-marks and itching on head, face, and all over.  !!

Have a hot flask..of coffee or tea for cold nights..  And caffeine helps to stay awake..  When you are stargazing..   it’s quite relaxing..and you may fall asleep.. !!

Don’t drink any alcohol..   It may be fun..but afterwards, you’ll doubt if you really did see shooting stars…or was it a trick of light..   reflection of passing cars in streets on any clouds..or even a high-flying tint bird, moth, bat or bird!   (these are my real experiences ..)

Steps

Step 1 – Go out…get comfy..and let your eyes adjust to dark..and get more sensitive to light.   Now peripheral vision is good for detecting  flickers and motion..   So don’t worry…Just look up at one spot…relax..and gaze..  (that’s the operative word!)..    At some point..you’ll see one brilliant Meteor trail past  you..  or you’ll see a bright enough flash at the corner of the eye..

Step 2.  Keep gazing!   get a feel of their speeds, directions,  intensity..  These all vary!     About 20 minutes of this will give you a `real experience’ …to start with.  This is your `priming..’ or `calibrating’

Step 3.   Now you’ll have a feel of where abouts the majority of the shooting stars are appearing..    Here’s the important bit.    Pick a spot in the sky..  and stick to it…for at least 20 minutes further..(even if you see flashes on the sides.. !)

Step 4.  You will see distant aeroplanes..  few tiny artificial satellites…slow moving..   and you;ll eventually see meteors.   Have faith and keep gazing…That’s the real trick..

 

How to film Shooting stars with ordinary digital camera

I had the digital  camera on movie mode…mounted on a simple tripod..!  If you have highly light sensitive mode on your digital camera or video camera, even better.   I don’t think phone-cameras are good enough.. for this.   But web cams may be..(I;ll try it and let you know next time).

step 1.     Charge up battery for camera.   Nothing worse that filming for an hour.and battery runs out..just before a spectacular trail of meteor goes past!  Have a spare battery if you have one..charged.

step 2; Mount on a tripod.   It’ll give you a serious neck & arm ache if you have to hold it by hand for more than  10-15 minutes..  and Stargazing /filming takes a few hours at least! Lying on ground (for self) is a good idea..or a easy chair or garden recline chair..

Step 3: Aim camera (set up) at a part of the sky you have already seen a number of meteors (by unaided sight).     Switch movie record mode..and let it run..   Remember to stay away from the camera’s field.

Step 4:  Because filming can run from 5 minutes to even 30 minutes…  and you may be filming lots of no-event sky..   it’s best to periodically stop the filming..and re-start immediately. This gives you a series of clips..which are easy to sift through on a lap top or PC..  !   (DON’T try to immediately re-play a clip.. to see if you caught a meteor. You are wasting precious camera battery with replay…and you my be missing another meteor above!    The task is to film chunks of clips..   sift through them later.

Warning: Colder nights mean battery will run out faster!

 

notes

Keep calm.. Enjoy the peace..  Be positive.    There are usually 10’s to hundreds of shooting stars at those peak times.   So it;s just a matter of time.. before yo spot one  or 20!  If you get erratic..in a hurry..and not so whole-hearted…you ain’t gonna see one..

Don’t forget to make a wish..when you see one! 🙂

Forthcoming Meteor showers in Northern hemisphere.

Here are the dates / names of the meteor showers coming up in October (2), November (1) and December (1) of this year 2013.

Good Luck… and Bright Stellar Blessings

-Mani Navasothy

 

Related resource/ link

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Meteor showers: Practical steps for observing & filming shooting stars!

  1. Pingback: Jupiter NOW (photo) | QuantumPhoenix.net ..Consorting with Stars & Magic.. and making it fun!

  2. Pingback: Major Meteor Showers (shooting Stars) for 2014 | QuantumPhoenix.net ..Consorting with Stars & Magic.. and making it fun!

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