2012 Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend!!!

Perseid Meteor falling over the Pacific Ocean south of Hilo

The Perseids are here! As seen on National Geograhpic’s website. Every year we enter a swath of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle sparking these “falling stars”.  Last year was a  bust with a full moon washing out all but the brightest ones.  As pictured below..

Perseid Meteor and Full Moon 2011

Perseid Meteor and Full Moon 2011

 Unlike last year, this year should be much better. The moon rises in the early morning as a crescent which is better than the bright full moon.  The best place watch is away from city lights where the light pollution takes over our night sky. Where ever you live just take a 30 minute drive out-of-town. This year we have a bonus!  Venus and Jupiter will align with the slender crescent moon in the eastern sky before sunrise in a dazzling morning sky show with a flurry of Perseid Meteors!  The best time to look is between 1am and 4am (NE) when the radiant is the highest in the sky. featured below…

Perseid Sky Map

 I have had the honor of photographing this meteor shower multiple times from many places. Last year I photographed it from Utah, Arizona and Pennsylvania and I’m planning on extending that streak to a couple additional states this weekend. Here are a few shots from past meteor showers.Perseid Meteor over the Utah Desert 2011.

Utah Desert 2011.Delta Aquarid - Glacier 2008

Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower 2008

Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2012

Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2012

Quadrantid Meteor Shower – Florida Keys

Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower 2010

Perseids – Big Island of Hawaii

Leonids 2011

Leonids 2011

Leonid Meteor Shower – New Jersey 2011

Volcano and Perseid Meteor 2010

Volcano and Perseid Meteor 2010

The Kilauea Volcano Caldera, the Milkyway and a Perseid Meteor , Hawaii

Lyrids 2012

Lyrids 2012

Lyrid Meteor Shower 2012 – Virginia

Quadrantids in the Florida Keys 2012!

Quadrantids in the Florida Keys 2012!

 

 On a single night of the year you can see a falling star, but there are nights where the chances increase by a ton!  The Perseids start in late July and last until  about the 18th of August, the greatest activity of the shower will occur this weekend so be sure to go outside tonight and make a few wis

You can see these meteors in any direction in the sky. Make sure you bring a camping chair or blanket and look straight up without focusing on any single area in the sky. If you choose to photograph the shower make sure you use a lens which can cover a good portion of the sky and bring lots of snacks! Try not to look at cell phones or use flashlights that aren’t “red lights” this damages your night vision. When you first arrive at your sight make sure you allow 10-15minutes for your eyes to adjust to the night sky. Do not look at or into any light sources, it will tak you another 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust into (night mode).

Check back for a follow up to the shower and happy meteor hunting!

Double Eclipse! (a preview)

WOW!!  I haven’t made a post  since April.  I am long overdue, but it has been for good reason.  I have had 15 workshops since April, one of them being to Arizona where we photographed many iconic locations including the Great “Ring of Fire” Annular Solar Eclipse over Horseshoe Bend in northern Arizona. I have also photographed the partial eclipse of the “strawberry” moon in early June, follow by the “transit of Venus” crossing the surface of the Sun, the following night. Three eclipses in just as many weeks, So lucky to have been apart of them all. The eclipse BlogEntry is coming next week! This is just a  little teaser of what is to come! Enjoy! We all arrived at 12 noon (5 1/2 hours before the eclipse began, just to “claim” our spot) and I’m glad we did.

Annular Eclipse May 20th, 2012 – Northern Arizona

Annular Eclipse – Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, May 20th, 2012

(above)The eclipse started at 5:32pm and ended beyond sunset around 7:24pm. This image was taken in the final minutes before the sun set in it’s partial eclipse phase.  

(above) This photo was created during the Maximum Eclipse Phase around 6:34pm on Sunday May 20th, 2012.

   Be sure to check back next week for the full post! Cheers! Jeff

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Thursday Night!

The Leonids are back!  Tomorrow night into Friday morning you can expect to see rates  between 20-50/hr. Some experts have said there could some a couple outbursts this year to around 200/hr , but that won’t favor the United States and with the moon, even worst. We are now reaching the winter months, it can get pretty cold out and clouds can dominate the landscape.  This year the moon will rise around midnight, but don’t let that keep you inside!  There will be plenty of time in the evening hours with darker skies for the first half of the shower. When the moon rises it will then  interfere with the meteor shower, but it won’t wash them all away. Leonid Fireballs are likely and I will be there when one falls.

Falling Star over Haleakala Crater - Maui, HI

 It’s going down into the 20’s tomorrow night where I live. Remember to dress warm! Bring gloves, insulated boots, blankets, hats, fluids, camping chairs, cameras, tripods and some snacks!  I would say meteor rates will be around 20 /hr with some sporadic bright fireballs. Let’s hope the weather is on my side!

“Islands in Autumn” – Orionid Meteor Shower 2011

The meteor shower was a sucess! The clouds gave way granting me a grand view of the night sky. The Photo I took here “Islands in Autumn”

Orionid Meteor Shower 2011. As Seen on MSN, Spaceweather and Space.com

has been making it’s way around town lately.

Here is what I wrote Alan Doyle  @ MSN:

I also gave Alan Doyle some information about the picture  at MSN  (  http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/24/8470300-catch-a-falling-star-and-fall-colors ).   

Update for 11:30 p.m. ET: In an email, Jeff Berkes provides further details about how he captured that amazing image:

“I left my house in West Chester, Pa., shortly after midnight and arrived at French Creek State Park in southeastern Pennsylvania around 1 a.m. on October 22. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a crystal clear sky and a moody fog rolling off the lake. I was outside for only a couple of minutes before I saw my first Orionid meteor. I knew right then it was going to be a great night. The moon beginning its ascent around 2:15 a.m. worried me a bit, but the Orionids were flying high and bright. It was 3:27 a.m. when I captured this image, my first Orionid shot of the morning. I stayed up all night while taking over 500 photos and counted close to 30 meteors. I even had enough energy from a Wawa blueberry muffin to continue shooting through sunrise, before taking the 45-minute drive home at 9 a.m.

“I used a technique called ‘light painting’ to illuminate the foreground subjects in this shot. This is where I use a high-powered flashlight to light up objects up to 1,000 feet away. I spent the first 30 minutes checking out different angles before settling on this location. I usually do not like shooting directly into the moon when shooting meteors; however, with it being very low and behind the trees, it was not a problem for this bright meteor to burn itself into my sensor. Light pollution for once actually helped me out here by adding some flavor to the horizon and separating the trees from the sky. Around 2 a.m., I anchored my tripod along the water’s edge facing out over the lake, while the constellation Orion was rising higher off my right shoulder in the southeastern sky. I fixed the exposure time for the flashlight and then started popping off shots until I eventually captured one of these majestic meteors.”

Berkes used a Nikon D3 camera with a 17mm lens. ISO: 800. Exposure: 25 seconds at f/2.8.””

cont…

Now some will say “better the camera,  better the pictures”.  Well, in some respect maybee, but it’s combination of lens choice, camera settings and exposure times, not to mention the composition and thought process put into a single photograph. I planned to shoot there one month in advance. I actually found FIVE  locations with 150 miles just in case weather was an issue, so there was lots of planning and researching involved. I have been shooting at night since I was teenager in the mid- 90’s, so I have had a good amount of experience with using ligting techniques at night like “light painting” which I used to illuminate the foreground. The #1 thing I had here was lucky and some patience. The best meteors I saw that night never crossed my lens.. or my lense was processing the last image and I could shoot. (I need a back-up)

I find a great deal of peace at night. Maybee it’s the beauty of the stars shinning overhead or the the sound of night. I’m not sure, I just have something in me that wants get out capture nature at it’s most exciting moment. Tornado, lightning, blizzard , wildfire or the center of our galaxy…  photographing landscapes at night is my blank canvas as a photographer, I can create almost anything I want.

Here is another photo from that morning.

Orionid Meteor over French Creek State Park

 I also photographed the Nothern Lights the night MSN published the article about my “falling star” and was published 2 times in one day on MSN. In case you didn’t see the great pictures from everywhere, check them out here! http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/25/8474218-northern-lights-go-way-way-south

Here is the only shot I could really get.. I was in such a rush to leave that I left my tripod mount on my 70-200mm lens at home! I used my sweatshirt as a “nest”  for my camera and I took shots from on top of the basket on my SUV!  Hey it worked!  Thanks Drew, for giving me the “I forgot my tripod for a nighttime assignment” in class.

Northern Lights in Chester County, PA!

Space Shuttle Discovery’s Last Transit Over the United States

Photo of the Day: 3.10.2011

Discovery’s Final Transit  

3.8.2011  –  7:23:24pm to 7:25:49pm EDT.  Chester County, PA

It’s was upsetting to know that Tuesday night would be the last time to see the Space Shuttle Discovery in the night skies over my town. I was 4 years old when Discovery first launched in 1984 and it’s sad to see something I’ve known for so many years retire. I have only seen it once in person when I was very young, but yet there was something about that visit to the Kennedy Space Center that inspired me. I can still picture clearly the Discovery being slowly rolled out to the launch site as a kid in the 80’s and I feel very fortunate to be able to photograph its final transit last night. The clouds parted briefly allowing me the two minutes I needed for this shot. I think the clouds added some interesting colors to the image and the crescent moon was a special bonus on a special night. The space shuttle Discovery and the ISS sweeping by the Pleiades with the hanging crescent moon and moon corona setting in the west. You can’t beat that for a farewell to almost three decades of service and 39 missions under the belt. Hope you enjoy this image as much as I enjoy creating it.

 Thanks Discovery! You will be missed!

2010 Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Now!

The 2010 Leonid Meteor Shower is peaking right now! This year won’t be as intense as previous years with only 15-25 meteors an hour expected from experts. I remember the Leonid Storms of the late 90’s into the 3rd millennium were insane! The conditions in Southeastern Pennsylvania will be excellent!!! Despite 20-40mph winds and some chilly temps, there should not be a cloud in the sky. Look southeast in the dark early hours before dawn. The moon will have set allowing better viewing of the faint meteors. Here is a photo I took this August in Hawaii of the Persied Meteor shower! 120 meteors per hour!

More Nighttime Photography and Extreme Landscapes at  www.jeffberkesphotography.com

UPDATE: Cloud cover forecast for the dark hours before dawn Thursday Morning.