Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Viewing Comet Catalina Gets Better All Week!

Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina at 6;10 am December 1, captured on a Canon 5DMarkIII with 85mm lens
Catalina December 1 at an effective focal length of 480 mm.
In late November I retweeted a link to an +EarthSky article describing a comet that would be brightening in the coming weeks, Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina.  This morning Comet Catalina was visible below Venus in the early morning sky to the East, as shown in the image above from 6:11 am this morning.

I also captured it at 300 mm on a Canon EOS 70D (right).  Due to bright moonlight, its tails were not easy to pick up, even at an effective focal length of 480 mm.  Over the coming week, the sky will get darker as the moon approaches its new moon phase, so the Comet and its tails should get progressively easier to see.  In the meantime, using a tracking mount would enable brighter exposures with less noise, so better results than this quick catch on a fixed tripod are certainly possible, but the best results should come as the moon gets out of the way November 8 and later, weather permitting.

Catalina with Venus & moon 12/7
Early on the morning of  December 7, there will be an interesting configuration in the sky as it rises to the left of Venus and the moon as a 14.7% crescent.  The moon rises at around 3:20 am with a zero degree elevation horizon such as the ocean followed by Venus and then Catalina around 3:40, so look for the trio clearing a moderately low land horizon around 3:45 am.  These times vary slightly with your latitude, but you can look up exact times in programs such as +The Photographer's Ephemeris or +PhotoPills.  On the morning of November 8, the situation will be similar but with the moon at 8.3%, following the earlier rise of Comet Catalina and Venus.

My 85 mm shot at the top is a four second exposure at f/2.8, ISO 3200 on a standard tripod with no sky-tracking mount, so many DSLR owners can start capturing it, whenever the sky is clear for them in the next week or two.

You can look up the comet in an app such as SkySafari+ to see exactly when it will rise in your location each morning.

Good luck with your viewing and photography!  Weather permitting, I hope to have some results to show you at some point in the December 7-14 timeframe!  Here are some of my prior comet photos on Flickr to entertain you in the meantime: https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=23183960%40N00&sort=date-taken-desc&text=comets&view_all=1