The Perseid Meteor Shower with the Andromeda Galaxy

I learned a lot shooting the Perseid Meteor shower. I needed thee kinds of shots:

  • Just after sunset. Static shots of with the horizon near the bottom of the image. With any foreground trees or buildings. These give the image a sense of scale.
  • After dark when the region of the sky you will be shooting is above the horizon shoot images the background stars exposed for good detail and color. These will be stacked for the high quality background image.
  • Meteors can look much brighter than the stars. To capture them you will want several stops more exposure, because they appear so briefly.

Finally don't sort your images when you haven't slept for over 24 hours! My shots were a little underexposed to pick out fainter meteors. With over exposure it's easy to loose the transition in color from blue to red as they slow down in the atmosphere. After filtering out the shots with airplanes and car lights, I'm pleased with the final result.

Perseid Meteor shower with the Andromeda Galaxy
The Perseids with Andromeda and the double cluster in Perseus. Shot over 7 hours the night of August 11-12, 2016 from west of Burnet, Texas. First to last meteor frame 3hrs 17 minutes. Sony a6300, with Rokinon f2 12mm lens, and Vixen Polarie tracking mount. Most images shot at f2.8 for 30 sec. at ISO 3200. 42 of 440 used, images aligned and some stacked in Nebulosity. Final composite and exposure adjustments in Photoshop.

The coolest thing that I realized from this project is that, when not over exposed, each meteor makes a little rainbow along it's path. Hot blue or green at the start while it's still moving fast and ending up red as it slows down and melts away. By eye they are so quick and bright or dim I don't notice much color except at the end. My earlier camera meteor images and most others that I've seen must be overexposed blowing out any color.

Once I got rid of the airplanes and satellites, I could see that all the meteor trails point (blue end) to the radiant in Perseus. I'm surprised by how many photographs of the Perseids that I've seen where their directions are random or concentrated in some other part of the sky. I suppose operator error or creative license...

The Photoshop composite file has thirty-seven layers. When I tried to save it, I hit the dreaded Photoshop 2GB limit, but it saved nicely as a 1GB PSB large document format file. Yes, OS X has a 8,000,000,000 GB file size limit, but Adobe says it all.

Content created: 2016-08-14

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