This Saturday morning (Jan. 4), astrophiles around the world will be blessed with the very first-and probably the best-meteor shower event of the year. Check out our tips for photographing meteors and discover how to watch the 2020 Quadrantids in this handy guide .
Where, When, and How to Watch the 2020 Quadrantids Meteor Shower
Around 1 a.m. local time on Saturday, the moon will be just past the first quarter, which means the night sky will be dark and moonless. Basically, this is the best condition for watching and photographing the Quadrantids meteors. If you're an astrophotographer, grab this chance to capture these celestial objects through your lens as circumstances won't be as favorable until 2028.
If you're in the United States or Canada, you can catch the Quadrantids meteor shower during the prime meteor-watching hours: just before dawn. In these places, the event's maximum activity is at about 4 a.m. EST (0900 GMT). Meanwhile, astronomy geeks in Europe and North America will witness a strong display of meteors until 6 a.m. local time.
The event is sharply peaked, which means that the number of meteors that will appear six hours before and after the peak is only at a quarter of the highest rates. According to Space.com, a single observer in a dark place could see 60 to 120 meteors per hour during the shower's peak activity.
How to Photograph a Meteor Shower
Find a Location
Locate a dark site with little to no light pollution, so you can observe and capture the night skies unobstructed. As much as possible, choose a dim place with a scenic view and avoid cities to produce stunning, well-composed pictures.
Prepare the Equipment
For astrophotography, you will need a camera, a wide-angle lens, and a tripod. Any camera with manual functions will do as long as you have a wide-angle lens. For the lens, don't go wider than 15mm but choose one that opens at f/2.8 or faster. As with the tripod, the sturdier, the better.
Set Up Your Camera
Here are the ideal camera settings when photographing meteor showers:
- Shoot in RAW format
- Turn to Live View mode
- Turn to Manual Focus
- Disable the Long Exposure Noise Reduction function
- Boost ISO to highest value (800 to 3200)
- Open aperture to max
- Turn Exposure to 30 seconds
BONUS TIPS: Keep your tripod steady by attaching a heavy object under the central column. Because you'll have to leave your camera exposed for a good while, it's best to tape down the focus rings using gaffer tape to maintain the focal length. Lastly, don't forget to wear warm clothes as you lay under the stars and let your camera work its magic.