Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sky Watch: 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower

A year ago I made the crazy, impulsive decision to drive an hour into the mountains and spend the night out under the stars. Luckily a good friend was just crazy and impulsive enough to hit the road with me.

It came with a high price -- incredible pain keeping me home-bound for a few days, and losing over a week to real 'recovery'.

But they payoff is that my life-story now includes this picture:

This year's Perseids will peak in the early morning hours of the 12th.

Info about the Persieds:

American Meteor Society: Viewing the 2016 Perseids

The Perseids are active from July 13th through August 26th. Maximum activity is predicted to occur on the morning of August 12th, when rates in excess of 1 per minute may be seen from dark sky sites. On the morning of maximum the waxing gibbous moon will set between midnight and 0100 local daylight time as seen from mid-northern latitudes. This will free up the prime observing hours from interfering moonlight.

Washington Post: The Perseid meteor shower could be twice as awesome this year

In any given year, when the dark heavens cooperate, the Perseids could peak at 50 to 100 shooting stars an hour. This year, the International Meteor Organization thinks that number may increase to about 150 meteors an hour. Other astronomers are calling for up to 200 meteors an hour. Perseid Meteor Shower Guide

Some skywatchers plan to camp out to see the Perseid meteor shower, but at the very least, viewers should bring something comfortable to sit on, some snacks and some bug spray. 

Dark sky watching in Winston-Salem... Forsyth County... Central(ish) North Carolina.. 

Forsyth Astronomical Society

Dark Sky Sites driving distance from Winston
Most are along the Blue Ridge Parkway -- My favorite is Doughton, which has a nearby campground, and a little further up the road some bed and breakfast type places, if you want a cozier adventure. 

(Btw: there's a lodge at Doughton that is between owners, I believe. If someone would please take the place on I'd promise to visit several times a year and provide free promotional assistance. Thx.)

Dark Sky Sites Presentation Slies (PDF)
With lots of great info about where to go, and how to get there

Bonus Points: Pictures

It takes a really good lens to get great star pictures, as I learned last year. I was excited to get to experiment and learn more about my camera and how to set it up for sky pictures, but the results showed that even with the right settings there were going to be limits to the clarity and resolution that I could get with the standard setup I was using. For my purposes the camera I have is perfect. But I learned a lot about why folks invest the big bucks on special setups.

Meteor Society: How To Photograph a Meteor Shower With A DSLR

Verify file save settings are medium JPG and RAW
Mount camera on tripod
Set camera settings for ISO to 400-800 depending on conditions
Set f/ratio to lowest possible setting considering light pollution
Set camera exposure time considering light pollution, usually between 10-25 seconds.

May your skies be cloudless and dark.

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