Three meteor showers will light up the sky across eastern Australia tonight, giving stargazers an opportunity to photograph the fireballs as they blaze across the sky.
But capturing a meteorite shower is not as easy as just taking out your iPhone and pressing the button.
The light show started on Thursday night with the Piscis Austrinids and will be followed by the Southern Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids which will peak on Saturday 30 July.
Visibility is expected to be the best on Saturday night, as the new moon will be dark.
The Astronomical Society of Victoria meteorite expert, Kon Stoitsis, said the best place to see the shower was outside of cities.
“If you’re looking from skies that are light polluted you might see something like five to six meteorites an hour. From a country sky it’s more like 40,” he said.
Stoitsis said the Alpha Capricornids was “the pick of the bunch” in terms of putting on a good show – it has fewer meteorites, but the ones it does have burn bright. The other two have more but they are fainter, making them harder to see if you are in a city.
To find them, all you need to do is look east, he said.
“They’re all roughly in the same part of the sky … and they are all visible after 11pm, then they are probably visible to 3.30am.”
But capturing them is harder. The photographer Jay Town said if you only have a phone it would be best to put it away and watch.
“You need a camera, a wide-angle lens and a tripod,” Town said. “You have to have all of those three, otherwise it won’t work.”
Getting a good shot can be tricky, but there are a few steps you can follow.
The first is using a wide-open lens to give you the biggest chance of capturing the shower. You also need to set up a long exposure, Town said.
“Start with a 20-second exposure,” he said. “Once you get over 30 seconds you’ll get movement in the normal stars and you don’t want that – you’ll have lines everywhere. You want the stars to be sharp and the meteorites to look like streams of light.”
A tripod will stop the camera from shaking, but when working with such high exposure, even pressing the bottom of the camera can make the image blurry, Town said.
“The easiest way around it is to use a shutter release which will mean you then don’t have to touch the camera, you could do it through your phone if you have an app on your phone, or you can have a physical release with a cable.
“Or hold your hand over the lens, push the button, and take it away – any movement will be over by the time you move your hand.”
The most important thing, he said, was “to take lots of lots of pictures”.
“And just hope,” he said.