Lots of bright, early Geminids flare in John Chumack’s video. Jupiter is the bright “star” in the movie’s first half. Another camera was aimed toward the rising Big Dipper in the second half.
I’ve heard nothing but enthusiastic early reports from the annual Geminid meteor shower, and we’re still hours from its Friday morning peak. Some observers are already seeing up to 50 meteors per hour. Check the Comments section below for a few of our readers’ observations. John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio recorded 86 Geminids with two low-light cameras overnight Dec. 11 -12 and pieced them together into the video above.
To refresh – the shower will be at its best tonight through tomorrow morning with at least 50 meteors visible per hour under moderately dark skies. Rates of 100 per hour might be realized from a truly dark rural location. You can go out starting around 8-9 p.m. local time and face east or south for the best view. The later it gets, the more meteors you’ll see, with the maximum expected during the early morning hours, when the Geminid radiant is high overhead.
Don’t forget the potential new shower expected earlier in the evening from Comet Wirtanen. THOSE meteors will appear to radiate from the dim constellation Pisces below the Great Square of Pegasus. Up to 30 slow-moving meteors per hour might be visible from dark skies. Look toward the south early in the evening as soon as it gets dark. There have already been a few early sightings of bright, slow meteors from the vicinity.
If you’d like to shoot pictures of meteors, place your camera on a tripod and open up the lens to its widest aperture, usually f/2.8 to 3.5. Set the speed or sensitivity set to ISO 800. A medium to wide angle lens and exposures between 30 seconds and a couple minutes work best.
Meteors from either shower can appear anywhere in the sky, but you’ll know which is which if you follow their paths back to the radiant, the point in the sky from they appear to originate. At mid-evening, Geminids will trace back to the east; those from Comet Wirtanen to the south and west.
No matter where you point the camera meteors will fly by, however the further away from the radiant you are, the longer the meteor trails will be. I usually include the radiant off to one side or frame a catchy composition with showy stars like those in Orion. Including brilliant Jupiter along with the neighboring star clusters of the Pleiades and Hyades might be another scenic angle.
The trick to catching a meteor is to keep shooting, one picture after another, until you get lucky. I’m figuring on burning through at a couple hundred exposures tonight. Good thing digital is cheap!
Because of cold temperatures, be sure you start with a fully-charged camera battery and have a spare on hand. This may sound silly, but I cover the camera body in a wool hat to retain heat and prolong battery life. One of our readers goes a step further and tucks a hand-warmer into his setup. Check the front of the lens every so often for frost. A hair dryer set to gently heat will quickly remove it. There are few things worse than clicking through pictures hazed up from dew or frost.
If you get a nice shot, I’d be delighted to run it in the blog. E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org