You can be looking up for things, but things aren’t looking up

Say, what’s the night sky been like recently where you are? What? You say the moon is nearly full? Wow, here too! What are the chances?

But of course, with a bright moon in the sky, it must be time for another meteor shower, or in this case, two back-to-back – well, technically overlapping: the Southern Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids. Actually both have been going on for more than a few days, but they’re supposed to reach a peak in the next couple. That’s the nature of meteor storms, which are made up of debris primarily from passing comets. As they loop around the solar system, they leave a trail of the dust they expel, and the Earth trundles right through these trails (well, some of them anyway) as it loops around the sun itself. There will be a densest portion of these trails, but the dust can expand away from the path of the comet, driven by sublimating ice and the solar wind, so encountering the dust can occur over a broad period of time; we’ll just be getting the bulk of it in the next few days.

It’d be nice if we got a lunar eclipse or something to darken the skies a bit… wait, what? There’s a major one about to occur? Cool! Oh, except that it will be visible across practically the entire planet except North America. Fuck you, orbital mechanics.

Anyway, if you still want to try and see some, the very early morning hours tend to be best, like between midnight and 4 AM. If you want to try and get photos, set the camera up on a tripod in a dark area, medium-wide focal length (so, 18-50mm) and lock the shutter open on (B)ulb setting for anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes, f4 to f8. The nice thing about digital is that you can view the results as you go and judge exposure times. The bad thing about digital is that you actually can’t; the LCD screen on the back is absolute shit at giving a good indication of proper exposure, so don’t trust it, and change the settings a bit.

This site gives a few more details, and of course, Stellarium is handy for plotting things like that, but there are probably a few apps that are dedicated to it too. Or you can wait for a shower to occur during dark moon times, in which case it will invariably be overcast. It always is for me.

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