Sunday, May 25, 2014

Meteor Hunting Consolation Prize: Beautiful Star Trails

I had two cameras out last night for what's being called the Camelopardalids, the first meteor shower produced from Comet 209P/LINEAR dust. My DSLR ended up catching a bright meteor that left a puff of smoke hanging in the air for 2 minutes. My point and shoot caught the smoke but missed the actual meteor flash.

Both cameras produced hundreds of photos of the night sky from fixed tripods - which make for excellent star trail photos once stacked using free StarStaX software.

My point and shoot produced 252 usable frames, which is typical of its battery life. I get fewer in winter when the cold drains the battery faster, but in 50°F air this was normal. My DSLR was set to JPEG instead of RAW to allow for as many photos as possible. I only ended up with 850 images over about 3 hours. I suppose I could have used RAW format for this, because it didn't come close to filling up my 64GB memory card.

I still need to learn to tether my DSLR to my laptop and buy an AC adapter for unlimited shooting! But for now, 3 hours in the can is a good chunk of time.

Ugh, I just realized as I was typing my photo specs into the pics below that I had my camera stopped down for no good reason. I could have opened it up to f/4.5 for some brighter images. Oh well! On a positive note, I didn't have to Photoshop any planes out of the images because there were only a couple and they just so happened to fly in the general direction of the star paths. Can you spot them?

DSLR star trails
Stack of 850 photos, each at ISO 800, 18mm, f/5.6, 15 sec
Canon T5i

point and shoot star trails
Stack of 252 photos, each at ISO 800, 6.2mm, f/2.7, 15 sec
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS

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