Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Four Nights With Comet Lovejoy

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy on the evening of Monday, January 19, 2015.
Last night I enjoyed the best viewing conditions for capturing Comet Lovejoy so far.  Seen under the dark skies of California's Eastern Sierra region and with no moon in the sky, even its long tail showed up well.  Knowing where to look (near Pleiades) I was able to just see it with my eyes, and find it with a 70-200 mm lens.  Using a Canon 70D DLSR, its "crop sensor" gave me the equivalent of 320 mm focal length.  I even added a 2X teleconverter to bring the effective focal length to a massive 640 mm!

I used an external interval timer to capture one-minute exposures until the camera's battery power ran out nearly 2.5 hours later.  I had the camera placed on an inexpensive star-tracking mount to follow the comet as the earth rotated.  I converted the resulting 147 exposures to video, and with 640 mm zoom, over the course of 2 hours you can see the comet move against the starry background!

Here are the time-lapse video results of several nights shooting, at effective focal lengths of 28 mm, 35 mm, 320 mm and 640 mm.  The video is best viewed full screen, switched to HD 1080p quality:

I hope that I get more clear nights this month to shoot the comet, as it gradually moves away from the earth and the sun on its big lap of our solar system.