The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Two Morning Comets

The comets from last fall have been fading, but they are not gone. Last week, two of them had a fairly close encounter in the morning sky. On February 6th, Comets Lovejoy and Linear (X1) were just two degrees apart. Unfortunately, cloudy mornings ruled in Tucson for a while before and after that.

I finally got my break Sunday morning. Looking outside at 4:30am, it was clear so I grabbed my camera and headed to my dark site. The comets were fainter, but easily visible in my pics.

IMG_0169-2Comet Lovejoy is the upper blue blob and LINEAR is the blue fuzzy patch near the bottom center of the screen. At the very left of the frame is the open cluster NGC6633. I used my Canon 60D with 75-300mm zoom lens at 300mm, f/5.6, 120sec exposure at ISO5000 on an iOptron Skytracker. In other words, my usual setup.

These comets are still visible but moving farther apart. Universe today has a nice article on how to find them if you want to check them out.


February 12, 2014 Posted by | Astrophotography, Comet Lovejoy, Comets | , | Leave a comment

Comet ISON Brightens Rapidly

It has been a few days since I got out to image Comet ISON but I finally made it out this morning…trying to beat the Moon which will shortly be returning to the morning sky. Much to my surprise, ISON has brightened up quite a bit since Sunday morning. It was easy in 8×42 binoculars and its nucleus is much brighter. Again I set up my Canon 60D with a EF-s 55-250mm zoom lens. The following pic is at 250mm, f/5.6, ISO 5000 and a 90 second exposure.


Not hard to see the bright nucleus and the tail is developing. If you look to the left of the comet, you might notice a faint blue smudge. I believe that is galaxy NGC 4697. I have seen other people post pics from earlier today on the internet (most using telescopes) and I got my smudge in the same place they got a galaxy. I am happy I got it using my less extravagant equipment. Visually, it was pretty easy in 8×42 binoculars and looking good in 20x80s.

I turned my attention to Comet Lovejoy, still riding high in Leo and a very nice site. Pretty much the same settings for this shot as the previous one.


I looked briefly for Comet Encke again but didn’t find it this time…I didn’t spend too much time on it as it is getting pretty low in they sky. However, the fourth I haven’t nabbed yet, Comet LINEAR, was passing close to Arcturus so I went for it. It proved to be very difficult. I barely got it and was debating whether to post this photo at all, but what the hey, see if you can spot the VERY faint blue smudge toward the top of the image above Arcturus (clicking to look at a larger version might help). The comet is slightly left of directly above Arcturus (the brightest star) near the top of the photo. I might go back and add an arrow pointing to it later.


Like I said, not very impressive at all, but I went for it to add a notch to the proverbial comet belt.

The weather may get dicey in Tucson over the weekend and the Moon will soon return to the morning sky, but I will try to get out every couple of days to observe.

On another note, I was on Kitt Peak last night. Lots of photos that I have to put together into time lapses and star trail photos. Busy few days so it may take a while to get to it, but I am looking forward to trying some new things!


November 14, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Comet ISON, Comet Lovejoy | , , | Leave a comment