Comet Catalina

CometCatalina20160118

Can you spot the comet?  (Hint: it’s kinda green.  And kinda fuzzy.)

I braved the cold last night to play with a new toy: an iOptron SkyTracker. It’s a camera mount that tracks the rotation of the sky so you can take longer exposure pictures. Neat!

I have a sky-tracking telescope, but I rarely get it out because it is so heavy and hard to move. The SkyTracker is extremely portable and I expect I’ll be getting it out a lot more.

This was my first night out with it, and I must admit I hadn’t practiced using it, so I don’t think I had it set up as well as I could. Even with my poor setup, I could take 30 second exposures with no star trails. And with a low ISO, I got some nice colors.

I’m hoping for clear skies tonight so I can get it out again.

Camera geek info:

Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/1.8, 30 second exposure, ISO 100

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 lens, manual focus at infinity

iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead

Tripod

Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades

Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades

CometLovejoyPleiades20150118

Comet Lovejoy – Change in Position in One Day

CometLovejoy20150118

CometLovejoy20150119

Sunday and Monday evening it was clear, so it was time to find Comet Lovejoy again. This time it was near the beautiful Pleiades. Of course, that is worth a picture.

I thought it would also be fun to see how much the comet had moved over one day – the change is quite visible. I was hoping to go for a three-day comparison, but now it’s cloudy again.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 3.2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 94 mm for Pleiades and comet and 200 mm for comet, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod
  •            Cable release

In choosing which picture is the best, I find that I am using the following criteria: good focus (automatic toss for out of focus picture unless happen upon cool “artistic” effect), no visible star trails (stars should look like a point, not a line), visibility of comet, color of objects, color of sky, and noise of sky. While I have pictures with darker, less noisy sky, they don’t show the comet as well.

I am also finding that the image quality is far better when I zoom to my desired field of view instead of cropping in post-processing to get there.

Comet Lovejoy – Take 2

CometLovejoy20150115-2

Zooming out this time:

CometLovejoy20150115-1

After over a week of dreary gray weather, we finally got (partly) clear skies. Comet Lovejoy was still not naked eye visible from the suburbs (the patchy clouds did not help), but I could find it with the camera! I’m hoping to get pictures two nights in a row so I can get pictures of it moving across the sky. It was certainly in a much different place this week than last week, and I had to re-learn how to find it.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 2 second exposure, ISO 5000
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 200 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod

Comet Lovejoy

Can you spot the comet?  (Hint: it’s green!)CometLovejoy20150107-1

Zooming in … how about now?

CometLovejoy20150107-2

It’s been a long time since there’s been a comet that I could successfully see and photograph! Comet Lovejoy is a star hop from Rigel (Orion’s foot) into Eridanus, where it can easily be seen (at least in the suburbs in the northern hemisphere) with binoculars, a telephoto lens, or a telescope.  It looked gray through the binoculars, but in the pictures it is a beautiful green.

I am glad that our winter clouds cleared away and I got a clear night last night to spot it. I was hoping for a second clear night in a row so I could show that the comet is moving relative to the stars. Alas, the weather did not cooperate, and it looks like it’s going to be cloudy for a while. But I’ll keep looking up!