Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I'm just starting out with astrophotography and have read that this years most spectacular meteor shower display (at least where I live in Canberra, Australia) will be the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower:

May 5, 6 - Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower's peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 - 7. A thin, crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what could be an good show. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight, far from city lights.

As I am new to this, I'm not too sure what settings I will need to use. I'd like to avoid star trails that may distract from the meteor itself. Advice on focal length, shutter speed, aperature and ISO would be appreciated. I'm using a 550D if that is relevant to the ISO recommendation.

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My favourite site for astrophotography in formation is Catching the Light and I've linked that to their article on meteor shooting, but you may also want to read through the rest of the information there.

In a nutshell, however, it's moderately long exposures (5 to 10 minutes) on a sturdy tripod with the camera pointed at about 45 degrees to the radiant (where the meteors appear to come from). Focal length is up to you. A very wide angle will likely increase your odds of catching something, but it will be more faint. A longer length will reduce your odds of catching something, but what is caught will be much more visible in frame. The site author runs about 6 cameras at a time with varying focal lengths!

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If he doesn't want star trails at 5-10 minutes, he's going to have to have some sidereal tracking. –  rfusca Apr 23 '11 at 15:43
    
@rfusca - The technique I linked to is somewhat similar to catching lightening, you point, open the shutter, and try to capture something in passing and so you can use an equatorial mount to keep you on target and eliminate star trails. –  John Cavan Apr 23 '11 at 17:11
    
Right, I understand. I was just pointing out that in your summary here, you mentioned 5-10 minutes - but not the tracking really required for it. –  rfusca Apr 23 '11 at 22:35
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Is it worth trying without some kind of tracking? –  fmark Apr 24 '11 at 8:45
    
@fmark - Sure. You'll get some star trails as a result, but a meteor will move much, much, faster and so you won't be confusing them. –  John Cavan Apr 24 '11 at 13:11

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