Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

Geminid Meteor Shower

December 13/14, 2012

These four images were taken during the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower which happened to coincide with the night of New Moon.  The sky was clear and I observed about 60-80 meteors per hour between 10 pm and 2 am.  Most of the meteors were relatively slow moving, green in color and some were as bright as Jupiter.  The brightest was as bright as Venus and left an illuminated vapor trail that lasted nearly 30 seconds! Of course, my camera was pointed elsewhere at the time. I used my 5D M2 at ISO800 to capture 35 second exposures with my 16-35mm f2.8 lens set to 28mm at f3.5.  Out of 242 images I was able to record meteors on 8 exposures.  The best four are displayed here.

The top image shows a fairly long-track meteor heading northeast from the radiant point near Castor in the constellation of Gemini.  The Andromeda Galaxy can be seen just to the right of this meteor's track. Unfortunately, this was one of the few images that was shot from a fixed tripod and was not tracking the sky, thus the trailed stars.

The next image shows another meteor diving towards the northeast horizon just to the left of the Double Cluster in Cassiopeia. The following image shows another meteor heading northeast, but a little farther west of the cluster. 

The bottom image shows a meteor heading straight south to the left (east) of Orion.  The radiant point was just about directly overhead when this image was taken around 2am.   The sky began to deteriorate after 2am as the dewpoint temperature was being reached and most meteors were being observed rather low in the southern and western sky.  Although visually still impressive, the abundance of light pollution near the horizon would have washed out all but the very brightest meteors on any image exposures.  The best of the show occurred earlier than what is usually expected between about 10 pm and 2 am.  All in all my best observed meteor shower to date, even if I came up a bit short in capturing the best and brightest ones with my camera. 


  • Date & Location:  December 13-14, 2012 - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm winds, Temperature average 24F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with average transparency.  

  • SQM-L: 20.45 average

  • Optics:  Canon EOS 16-35mm f2.8L @ 28mm f3.5

  • Filter:  None

  • Mount:  Fixed Tripod & AP900GTO "piggy-backed".

  • Guiding:  None

  • Camera:  Canon 5D MII unmodified

  • Exposure:  242 - 35 second subs @ ISO800

  • Calibration Frames:  None

  • Processing:  PS CS6, NIK filters  

  • Comments:  A   The above camera settings seemed to work well as a balance to capture some of the fainter meteors while still covering a good portion of the sky.  A tad more focal length, perhaps 35mm would yield more impressive meteor captures at the risk of missing many others since a smaller portion of the sky would be recorded.  I'll stick with the wider apertures in the hopes of one day capturing a really bright and long tracked meteor filling a good portion of the sky!


Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors