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Eta Aquarides: how to observe (and photograph) the shower of shooting stars tonight?

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will reach its peak of activity on the night of May 5 to 6. It is not the most intense star shower of the year, this being the Perseids in August with 50 to 100 meteors per hour against 30 on average for Eta Aquaridsbut it has the merit of arriving early in the season and the weather is quite mild at the moment with clear skies over a good part of mainland France.

So why not indulge yourself by rolling your eyes? In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know to make the most of the event.

How to observe the Eta Aquarids?

The first thing to know is thatit is better to stay up late, even very late (between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.) to enjoy the most striking spectacle. Of course, there’s no point staring at the skies if the weather is capricious… so take a look at the forecast before you go out.

Another important point, get as far away from light pollution as possible urban centres, otherwise the nuisance will be far too great. The app “Light Pollution Map ”, available on Android and iOS, allows you to find the areas that are preserved around your position.

Once properly installed, face southeast and look for the constellation Aquarius. If you’re having trouble, apps like Sky Safari (see below) are here to help. They have a “Compass” mode allowing you to find the desired constellation very quickly.

SkySafari is a mobile astronomy application that allows you to observe the stars, follow comets and always learn more about constellations, planets and the solar system.

  • Downloads: 524
  • Release date : 02/17/2022
  • Author : Simulation Curriculum Corp.
  • Licence : commercial license
  • Categories:
    Astronomy – Science
  • Operating system : Android – iOS iPhone / iPad – macOS

To go further, take pictures

Why not go further and try to take pictures of shooting stars? Indeed, contrary to what you might think, the task is not that difficult. Indeed, the key is to switch your camera (or your smartphone) to manual mode so that you can manage the exposure parameters (the entry of light into the camera) yourself and make what are called long exposures. Concretely, it is a question of asking the device to expose its sensor to light for a longer time than usual (to learn how to take this kind of shots, it’s here), by l ‘occurrence for about ten seconds with a lens providing a wide viewing angle (14 to 35 mm is ideal).

However, this requires the use (it is absolutely mandatory) of a tripod because the device or the telephone must move as little as possible during the 10 and a few seconds of exposure (be careful not to make exposures that are too long at the risk of having all the stars in the sky in the form of lines).

Thanks to these famous long exposures, the device will be able to record all the shooting stars that pass through its field! For the other two exposure settings, be sure to have a fairly low ISO sensitivity and a relatively small diaphragm opening so as not to have too much light on your photos. Also, pay attention to focus properlytaking for example a luminous element located far from you, and at choose a good foreground. Indeed, taking a photo of the sky only is not really of interest. The decor in the foreground must be pretty.

And if your device has an intervalometer, take advantage of it. Once your exposure settings are to your liking, this tool will allow you to let the camera work on its own. As soon as he has finished his photo, he will automatically take another, and so on. Let it work for 1 hour and look at your photos, it’s a safe bet that shooting stars will be present on some of them like on this image taken by us during a trip to Norway:

Image credit: Karyl AIT KACI ALI / CNET France

To go even further:

Front cover image: Achim Kleist/Pixabay

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