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Another look at Lovejoy

Well, against all the odds I managed to see and photograph Comet Lovejoy again last night! I was amazed, frankly, because Cumbria’s weather has been so ****** awful recently that I was beginning to think we’d been cursed by a witch or something. But last night – as predicted by the BBC Weather app, which I’ve found to be very reliable, much more reliable than other weather apps – there were enough gaps in the scudding cloud, and enough pauses in the rain, sleet and snow, to allow me to see the comet from an isolated and very muddy gateway down near Kellington Lake, thanks to my fellow EAS member and fellow optimist Carol Grayson who took us there. We debated a while about just where to go – south seemed clear, but good sites were a long, long drive away, and east looked clear, but also a long, long drive away – so I placed our faith in Kellington and the BBC Weather app, and it paid off. Phew!

It was a flesh-numbingly cold evening, and as we got out of the car an icy wind was howling, but there were stars above us! The first stars we’ve seen in days! So I quickly set up the camera on its tripod, and started taking pics. The area of sky the comet was on was covered in cloud at first, but I watched a dark, starry gap drift towards it, so I pointed the camera at that gap, set it for a 4 sec exposure through my 50mm lens set at f2 and the ISO set at 1600ISO… and waited… and waited… The Pleiades appeared… then the Hyades… wait for it… wait for it…

NOW!

<click>

1st pic

Gotcha!

I know, I know, it’s not much, but that was my first photo for several days, and considering the wind and cold I was very pleased with that!

Over the next couple of hours or so cloud came and went, but the glacial wind never relented, and my poor tripod shook and wobbled about like it was made out of jelly. I still managed to get some half-decent pics tho, and was able to borrow Carol’s tripod for a while when she had to change her camera’s battery and memory card. Here are my best photos of the evening…

First of all, just to show you what Lovejoy looks like to a DSLR camera, here’s a single frame, straight out of the camera without any processing. Settings: f1.8, 50mm lens, 6 sec, 6400ISO

raw frame

And now the processed ones, in no particular order…

1bf2

2glowf

glowb

tail poss f

Hmmm… anyone else think I’ve caught a hint of a tail on that last one? I think I might, but not sure… Anyway, quite pleased with those considering it was a quite misty night most of the time, and the wind was howling around us like the end scene of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”.

But what did it LOOK like? Well, I have pretty bad eyesight, I’ll admit, but even I could tell there was “something there” in that part of the sky in the clearest moments last night. Through binoculars the comet was a slap-across-the-face obvious grey-white blur, not far from being as big as the Moon I thought. No hint of a tail tho. Maybe if the sky had been properly clear, and not misty, and maybe if the wind hadn’t been slapping me about I might have seen the tail, but not last night, no. But not complaining, I got some great (I think!) pics and saw it through my binocs too, so it was all good. And again, a big thank you to Carol for getting us there.

Not sure when I’ll get another look at the comet, the weather here is so messed up at the moment, with one storm front after another barrelling in from the Atlantic to explode over the UK like an airburst atomic bomb, but here’s a simple finder chart showing the comet’s location over the next few nights. Actually getting *easier* to find now, I think, as it climbs up towards the two most famous and most easily-found star clusters in the winter sky… Click on it to enlarge it, ok?

jan 11 - 14

If you’ve already seen the comet, well done, I hope you’re enjoying it! But if you haven’t managed to find it yet, keep trying, you’ll get there!

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2 Responses

  1. I appreciate every moment of your quest… Similar challenges here near Portland, Oregon!!

    Did you see my photos? Shot on January 8th.

  2. Congrats! Especially for your long wait in the cold and wind. I spent a few evenings not seeing Lovejoy through the 15F cold and 20-mph wind. But I caught a few nights with less wind and my 50mm lens (like yours, I think, but my Canon XS ISO ‘only’ goes to 1600 and the sky glow from moisture scattering the pink streetlights made it hard to use high ISOs. Saturday, with Venus and Mercury next to each other, Jupiter and its moons, lots of star clusters, made it a great night for binocular-users! I took a few shots of those targets, too.

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