Perseids Meteors Star Trails
I was not planning to take any Star Trail shots until the autumn when the sun will be setting earlier. However there was a happy coincidence on Monday evening of the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower and clear skies, rare in the UK.
The shot was taken from Pagham Harbour Wall looking due north. Pagham Harbour is a Nature Reserve and the water in the shot is a lagoon north of the Harbour. Overhead the Milky Way is visible but there is a lot of light pollution on the horizon with Bognor Regis to the East, Chichester 5 miles to the North and the city of Portsmouth being 20 miles to the West. It does have the considerable benefit though of being only 1 mile from home.
I used my Interval Timer and set the camera at ISO 200 and bulb and the timer at 2 minutes at f3.5. I took 2 hours of pictures starting about 11.00 so finished at 1.00 am. The picture was taken with my Samyang 8mm Fisheye lens.
There are 3 meteors visible on the left of the picture. The trails look shorter than they were due to the fisheye. I saw about 30 in all while I was out. One especially, not in the frame, was very bright and left a smoke trail.
The images were stacked in Startrails.exe
There are 2 methods of taking Star Trail images, either one long exposure of 20 minutes plus or a lot of shorter exposures later blended together. The problem with the first is if something goes wrong such as a walker with a flashlight or condensation you can lose the whole thing so I went for the second. It would normally be very time consuming to blend all the pictures together but there is now free software available to do it for you at http://www.startrails.de/html/software.html
With the method of stacking together shorter exposures noise is not such an issue so I turned off the Cameras noise reduction settings. If these are turned on it doubles the exposure length as a second image is taken automatically of the same length for the noise reduction process. This also causes gaps in the Star Trails if multiple images are blended. Noise was corrected later with software.
The circular pattern is formed by pointing the camera towards Polaris the Pole Star near the Plough. As the Earth turns stars more above the pole do not appear to move as much as those more above lower latitudes. I had with me an HTC Android Smart Phone with the Google Sky App. This enabled me to accurately locate the pole star
All the settings and equipment were as follows
- Sony A700 Camera.
- ISO 200, f3.5, 1 minute 59 seconds, 8mm.
- Long Exposure and high ISO noise reduction set to off. Otherwise the Camera would take One minute and 59 seconds between each shot for its own noise reduction resulting in great gaps in the Star Trails.
- Samyang Fisheye lens 8mm.
- Interval timer
See this post for a review of this Timer
For the Star Trails the stacking software works on jpegs which are then saved as a Tiff.
After opening in Photoshop some extra detail was brought in with Topaz Adjust Crisp preset
Overall Brightness increased.
Brightest stars selected with an Action from Astronomy tools and their brightness increased.
Noise reduced with Noiseware Pro.
Extra boost using Clarity setting of unsharp mask, amount 59 radius 59
BEFORE AND AFTER
Below are the Before and After images. First the Star Trails Image after merging of the frames but before other processing and then the final result.
Original Blended Images
For Prints and licences see Perseids Meteors Star Trails
Keywords: Bognor Regis, Dark, Pagham, UK, West Sussex, astronomy, astrophotography, celestial, darkness, dslr, fisheye, fisheye, fisheye lens, galaxy, geology, lagoon, landscape, long exposure, meteor, meteor showers, milky way, nature, night, night sky, north, path, perseid meteors, photography, pic, picture, polaris, red, reserve, samyang, shooting star, sky, sony700, space, star, star trails, the plough, trails, universe, wide angle
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