The Most Photogenic Celestial Events
(img credit: Carl, Flickr)
The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of spare time into the hands of most, as many spent their spare time confined to their homes. Thanks to this, astrophotography had one of its most popular years.
By looking at Instagram posts, Flickr images and Google searches, we've identified the most photogenic meteor showers and full moons to fill your celestial calendar.
The rise of astrophotography in 2020
Instagram hashtags around celestial events followed by "2020" had some of the highest volumes on the photo sharing app as people looked to the night sky with their phones and cameras.
Below, we've charted the rise for each celestial event where dated hashtags were used.
|Event ⭐||% Change 📈|
|Lyrid Meteor Shower||800%|
|Geminid Meteor Shower||237.50%|
|Quadrantid Meteor Shower||200%|
|Perseid Meteor Shower||145%|
Most Photogenic Meteor Showers
|Rank 🥇||Meteor Shower 🌠||Instagram Posts 🤳||Flickr Posts 📸||Google Searches 💻|
The Perseid meteor shower has the most hashtagged pictures on Instagram and the largest bank of images on Flickr, making it the most popular meteor shower to be photographed. This is most likely due to the fact that it is highly visible every year and takes place during the summer when the sky is clearer.
In 2021, the Perseid meteor shower will be visible between July 16th and August 23rd and peaks around August 12th-13th.
How to Photograph a Meteor Shower on Your Smartphone
(credit: Jaime González, Flickr)
A smartphone will never have the variety and strength of a classic digital camera but there are strategies and tools that will make your astrophotography better whether you're using an iPhone or an Android.
1. Use a tripod
A tripod will ensure your phone is steady and there’s no movement. Even the slightest movement can mess with long exposure images, meaning you won’t get clear pictures even if you do capture a meteor.
2. Use the widest lens possible
To get the best shots of the night sky, your phone needs to be able to gather as much light as possible. Many of the latest smartphones have multiple camera lenses so choosing the one with the broadest aperture should make stars & meteors brighter in your photos.
3. Download a long exposure app
Long exposure allows your camera to take multiple shots over a period of time - essential for capturing the fleeting nature of meteors. Some free examples include Easy Long Exposure Camera (iPhone) and Long Exposure Camera 2 (Android). While good quality paid apps include Slow Shutter Cam (iPhone) and Night Camera (Android).
4. Turn off flash and HDR
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This setting allows the camera to take multiple shots in a row and combine them to include more light than is visible to the lens in one shot. This can be good for shooting the sky but tends to slow your camera down, which risks missing meteors in the short time they are visible in the sky.
As with light pollution, a flash will drown out the light from the stars so your photos will only show a blank sky.
5. Don’t use zoom
Zooming in can lower the quality of the image, meaning that when you review your images, they won’t be as clear as what you might have expected when seeing them initially.
6. Take as many pictures as you can
Ensure there’s enough space on your phone for a lot of images, as you’ll probably need to keep your camera running for a long period of time to get the best shots you can. Meteors are fleeting so you’ll want to give yourself every chance of a good picture.
7. Know your environment
Meteor showers originate from a radiant near their closest constellation. You can use a constellation tracker app to get a good understanding of where Lyra is in the sky before you set your tripod up for the best chance at seeing the stars.
Most Photogenic Moon Events
|Rank 🥇||Full Moon 🌕||Instagram Posts 🤳||Flickr Posts 📸||Google Searches 💻|
For accuracy, results for "Harvest Moon" were removed as searches and Instagram hashtags around this phrase were more commonly related to the Nintendo game of the same name.
Each full moon can also coincide with a super moon or a lunar eclipse, with 2021 set for 3 super moons and 2 lunar eclipses throughout the year.
How to Photograph the Full Moon Using a Smartphone
(credit: Andrew and Annemarie, Flickr)
If you're new to astrophotography, try taking pictures of the moon for a couple of nights before the event so you have a better understanding of what you need to do and you don't miss anything.
2. Consider apps and accessories
A tripod is useful for night-time photography as it keeps your camera still, reducing the risk of blurring and making time lapses sharper. You may also want to invest in a lens attachment for astrophotography to strengthen your phone's camera without affecting the image quality. Camera apps like ProCam 8 (Apple) and Camera FV-5 (Android) allow you to shoot in RAW format, making your images easier to edit if you need.
3. Use manual focus and darken the exposure
On most smartphones, you can simply tap the screen to focus the camera manually. Make sure to tap the brightest edge of the moon to get the sharpest image. On the iPhone, you can also change the exposure by scrolling the slider next to the focus box. For Android, you may need to download a third-party app, or simply decrease the ISO if your smartphone comes with a manual camera mode.
4. Use a wide-angle view
If you're not using a lens attachment, making sure your camera is using the widest angled lens it can allows you to capture as much of the sky as possible. This is also especially useful for photographing eclipses, as this will ensure you capture the ring of light, known as the corona, around the shadow of the moon.
5. Take a time lapse
Another tip which is especially useful for an eclipse is an image time lapse. This will give you more images to choose from without manually taking them and will also show the progress of an eclipse as it passes over the moon.
6. Use HDR
High Definition Range is used to capture multiple photos that combine light sources for an image full of contrast. While this isn't so good for transient light sources like meteors, it may help you create a more complete image of the moon.