Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower

I've been trying for a few years to get a good shot of the Perseid meteor shower, which is an annual event here when the Earth orbits through the dust trail left from the Swift-Tuttle comet. It's always been an issue, as it's only for a day or two a year, and we tend to get a lot of overcast, fog, lately smoke from forrest fires. This year was perfect, with clear weather and no moon.

I started out at a couple of highway pull offs around Whistler, but it quickly became apparent that that for a mountain resort, Whistler has a shocking amount of light pollution. Next I tried Pemberton, but the mountains around it are too high and I couldn't see enough of the sky. I headed out to the Duffy Lake Road, the highway between Mt. Currie and Lillooet. It's a backroad pass over the coast range mountains that's over 4000 feet high, and has very little night traffic. It was perfect.

I set the camera on a tripod, pointed the lens at the sky, and started doing 5 minute long exposures. I quickly figured out that there is so much movement in the stars that it blurred everything badly, and meteors, which were coming in every couple of minutes, weren't registering. I cranked the ISO to 6400, opened the lens to f/2.8, and knocked down the exposure to about 90 seconds, and just kept doing them until I got a nice clear meteor trail. The green and red colours are traces of the northern lights, which gave the sky some definition, and cluster of stars at the top is the Milky Way.

One meteor came through and was so bright it lit up the entire valley, but unfortunately I didn't have the shutter open.

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