Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS - Second Try

Better Photos

My previous attempt to photograph comet Pan-STARRS on March 14th was not very successful. Five days later, on March 19th, I was better prepared. I used a 55-200mm zoom lens, set my camera to ISO 800, and had a better understanding of exposure time. Although it was hard to keep my tripod steady in the very strong and gusty west wind, the sky after sunset was absolutely clear - no clouds and no contrails.

Only three images were worth keeping. All others were either out of focus or ruined by the shaky, wind-buffeted tripod. Here's a wide angle view of the western horizon in twilight. An airplane with blinking lights moved just above the comet during this 3-second exposure.
55mm lens setting, 3s exposure, f/4 (Click for a larger image.)
A short time later the comet's tail was visible in this more magnified image. The annoying glow of sodium vapor lights is apparent in the foreground.
85mm lens setting, 10s exposure, f/4.8 (Click for a larger image.)
Here's the best image, magnified yet again. It shows the comet over Flat Top Mountain in the distant Blue Ridge Mountains. The sky had darkened enough to make a few stars visible.
130mm lens setting, 10s exposure, f/5 (Click for a larger image.)
I lost the battle with wind on this night. Focus quality was disappointing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS

Photo Fail

Comet Pan-STARRS has been near the western horizon just after sunset the past few days. I spent several days battling clouds and poor viewing locations before I managed to see the comet in binoculars for the first time on March 13th during a 20-minute viewing window from 7:57 to 8:17 pm EDT. On March 14th I found the comet more quickly in momentarily clearer skies.

My photo attempt on March 14th was pathetically inadequate. It was hard to operate the camera in the cold 20 MPH wind. My hands were soon frozen. Only one image was worth keeping. The comet is very small in the image below. Can you see it in blue sky slightly above center?
Comet Pan-STARRS is barely visible here. (Click for a larger image.)
The comet looked very nice in binoculars. It was quite bright and displayed a nice tail. Too bad I couldn't capture these details in a good image.

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon