How a photographer was able to capture the Leonids meteor shower

News about the Leonids meteor shower grazing our skies from the late hours of Nov. 17 to dawn of Nov. 18 kept stargazers fully awake last night. Patience was their fuel to gaze on the shooting stars that appear only every 33 years. And, perhaps more importantly, to make a wish.

One of those who patiently waited was Paul Nejceb Jacalan, a 21-year-old astro- and portrait photographer residing in Lupao, Nueva Ecija. Armed with a wide lens and a DSLR mounted on a tripod, he fixed his setup as early as 1:30 a.m. at their front yard, with high hopes to capture at least one of the shooting stars.

WE’LL BE COUNTING STARS Sporadic meteors passing by around 2 a.m. (Photo by Paul Jacalan)

Learning that the meteor’s point may appear from the constellation Leo, where it got its name, he pointed his camera in the north east direction. Leonids are prolific meteor showers, with a rate of 15 meteors per hour, that occur whenever the Comet Temple-Tuttle crosses the Earth’s orbit. No wonder Paul saw 11 shooting stars, albeit all were so small except for the last one, which garnered praises and wishes on Facebook.

His long wait was not in vain because he was able to shoot some stars, especially the bolide meteor around 3:46 a.m, right before he called it a wrap. People from astro communities told him, however, that the last one he got is a Taurids bolide, also an active meteor this year that just so happen to have also made an appearance along with the Leonids meteor shower earlier today. 

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE The bolide meteor captured around 3 a.m. (Photo by Paul Jacalan)

But how was Paul able to capture a meteor of that size if he was using a wide lens? “Timing lang talaga na malaki yung meteor na nag-appear sa harapan ko, kaya malaki parin po talaga yun image niya when I cropped and enhanced it,” he says.

(It really was just about timing, when a larger meteor appeared, which is why the image was still huge enough even when I cropped and enhanced it.) 

Astrophotography needs a lot of patience, especially when you’re trying to capture shooting stars.

For those who doubt his photo, he said that he can provide a raw file.  

The young photographer has a collection of celestial photos that are posted on Facebook and Instagram. His interest in astronomy started when he was young, when he would spend time stargazing with his mother. When he was given a camera two years ago, he has not stopped shooting the night sky. 

“For those who are into photography, don’t limit yourself with your equipment, because it’s really all about the photographer. And astrophotography needs a lot of patience, especially when you’re trying to capture shooting stars,” Paul advises.

Focused on framing the sky and pressing his shutter button every time a meteor shoots by, Paul wasn’t able to make even one wish. But had he had time to pause, just look up at the sky as the shooting stars pass by, he says he would have wished for the pandemic to finally be over so everyone could return to a normal, normal life.

Source: Manila Bulletin (