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Category: Comets


C/2013 A1/Mars Encounter, Oct 19, 2014. 10 x 180 sec @ ISO 1600, 20 x 60 sec @ ISO 6400, TV-85 at F/5.6, IDAS-LPS, Modified Canon T3.

C/2013 A1/Mars Encounter, Oct 19, 2014. 10 x 180 sec @ ISO 1600, 20 x 60 sec @ ISO 6400, TV-85 at F/5.6, IDAS-LPS, Modified Canon T3.

Update October 20, 2014:  The above image is an update with more time added.  Compare it to the image below which was made with only 20 minutes of data shot at ISO 6400 (20×60 sec sub-images.)  I took an additional 30 minutes of 3 minute sub-images at ISO 1600 and added it in, so the combined total is 50 minutes.

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Comet Siding Spring and Mars. 20×60 sec @ ISO 1600, TV-85 at F/5.6, IDAS-LPS, Modified Canon T3.

Well, the big comet encounter of the year took place tonight, Oct 19, 2014 and Mars and Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) both survived.  LoL.   Seriously, it was a very close encounter if you had darkness when it was closest.  Here in southern Louisiana, it took place during daylight, so I had to catch it after closest approach as C/2013 A1 was bidding Mars farewell.

I had a strange night with some issues, but I managed to get some decent data and also lucked out with some good weather for this event.  This image is from the first set of images I took and it is a composite of comet-only processed and star background processed image stacks.  The comet moved a good distance in the twenty-five minutes it took to get the sub-frames, so I had to isolate it with different alignment and stacking techniques than I use for normal deep-sky images.

Comet Siding Spring on October 17, 2014. 13×60 sec @ ISO 3200, TV-85 at F/5.6, Modified Canon T3.

Comet Siding Spring on October 17, 2014. 13×60 sec @ ISO 3200, TV-85 at F/5.6, Modified Canon T3.

Detail view of Comet Siding Spring.

Detail view of Comet Siding Spring.

Well, I finally managed to catch that small comet that is about to side-swipe Mars.   It was a last minute effort and I caught the comet late and a little too close to the horizon.  It was so low, that I had to throw out the last six sub-images because they were way too red.  At that point, the comet was only 2 degrees above the horizon.  That’s probably the lowest angle I ever tried to image something.

The actual close approach to Mars will occur on October 19th, 2014.  Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to shoot it again at that time.  It’s a little runt comet, but at least it is newsworthy.   lol  :D

For this image, I had to travel a few miles from home to find a western horizon free of obstructions, since from my backyard it is impossible to see.  I ended up staying there most of the night since the sky was so nice.

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Comet Lovejoy on Dec 11, 2013. 21×15 sec @ ISO 3200, Canon 200mm at F/2.8, IDAS-LPS, Lumicon Deep Sky Filter

December’s weather has been horrible.  For the last 10 days it has been wet and cold and too cloudy to shoot any images of any comets.  Finally, it cleared enough to get out.  Unfortunately, while it was clear initially, clouds moved in before I could get a good amount of sub-images of Comet Lovejoy.  I did get 21 of them, so at least I did not scratch.

Below is the star streaks version of the data, with a few clouds for good measure.  LoL.  :)

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Comet Lovejoy rising from behind the trees in my backyard.

 

Comet Lovejoy composite image taken with a Canon 200mm telephoto lens.  I shot 40×30 sec sub-images at ISO 3200 and stacked them.  The first image of the set was used as the background base image.  I then took the stack of subs and combined them with the base to show the tail better.  To me, this shows how the comet sort of looked in binoculars as it was rising from behind the trees.

I also did a star-streaks stack that shows the extent of the tail better than the image above.  I did very little post-processing on it, since that just took away from the raw feel of the image:

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Comet Lovejoy on Nov 30th, 2013 – Star Streaks version.

C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy), Nov 30, 2013.  40x15 sec @ ISO 3200, Canon 200mm at F/2.8, IDAS-LPS, Lumicon Deep Sky, modified Canon T3 DSLR.

C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy), Nov 29, 2013. 40×15 sec @ ISO 3200, Canon 200mm at F/2.8, IDAS-LPS, Lumicon Deep Sky, modified Canon T3 DSLR.

With all the hype about Comet ISON going on over the past 2 days, we still have a very nice comet to look at that is putting on just as good a show – Comet Lovejoy.  Here’s how it looked the morning after Thanksgiving Day with a 200mm F/2.8 telephoto lens mounted on a simple equatorial tracking mount.    I used 2 light pollution filters for this since I had to shoot towards a very bright LP dome from a metropolitan area to my northeast.  It was a test and it seems to have worked beautifully.   Next time,  I’ll try this with the camera on my bigger mount and track the comet with much longer exposures.

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C/2012 S1, 11-20-13. 12×20 sec @ ISO 400 & 27×15 sec @ ISO 800, Canon 200mm F/2.8, modified Canon T3.

Here’s about 10.75 minutes worth of sub-images stacked to show the extent of Comet ISON’s tail.  Mount troubles and twilight limited my exposures, but at least I didn’t scratch.  Probably the last image pre-perihelion, since the weather will not be good for imaging again until next week and ISON will be too low to see by that time.

ISON Rising - Nov 14, 2013.  30 sec each @ ISO 1600, Canon 200mm F/2.8, modified Canon T3.

ISON Rising – Nov 14, 2013. 30 sec each @ ISO 1600, Canon 200mm F/2.8, modified Canon T3.

This morning (Thursday, Nov 14, 2013) I observed ISON and imaged it. Boy, what a difference from yesterdays observations. It has shot up immensely in brightness since yesterday and is now naked eye. Its so bright you can see an intense teal-green color in binoculars.

I managed to get about 28×30 sec images of the comet rising from behind the trees in my backyard.  I combined most of them into an animated GIF image above.   It shows the comet from about the start of astronomical twilight until the sky got too bright and the comet was moving back into some tree branches (about 5:11 A.M. local time until 5:33 A.M. local time.)

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Comet ISON and a meteor, Nov 14, 2013.

My image above is a composite of a single 30 second sub-frame for the background with an 18×30 sec stack of the comet blended in. I was using a Canon 200mm F/2.8 lens and had the camera (a modified Canon T3) by itself on a CG3 clone mount with a rudimentary clock drive. There was no guiding.

BTW, the sub-image with the meteor is presently being used by Sky & Telescope on their website for a couple of stories on Comet ISON:

Comet ISON Comes to Life

This Week’s Sky at a Glance – Some night sky sights for November 15 – 23

Latest Updates on Comet ISON

Not sure how long they will include the image on their website, but its given me lots of exposure.  :)

 

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