Comet Panstarrs – 6th April 2013

Comet Panstaars - Click to Enlarge

Comet Panstarrs – Click to Enlarge

This image of comet Panstarrs is my first attempt at capturing a closeup of a comet.  It was a challenge, as at the time, I wasn’tt using EQMOD, but the SynScan handset with the scope, so it didn’t have the comet in the database.  I searched manually in the twilight, and eventually found it.  I stored the position in the handset, then slewed across to a bright star, attached the camera, then focussed using the a Bahtinov Mask.  Finally I slewed back to the saved position and took some exposures.  I believe this is about 10x 30s exposures at ISO 800 with the EOS 5D, though I’m not 100% sure, as I’ve lost my records of the evening!  Initially, I stacked them by aligning on the stars.

First attempt - elongated nucleus caused by movement of the comet.

First attempt – elongated nucleus caused by movement of the comet.

This caused the effect seen in the alternative shot I’ve included to the right.  The nucleus of the comet in this shot seems stretched out into a line (with a section missing due to a bad frame).  It’s incredible how much the comet moved in as short a time as 10 minutes!  The final shot was created using a method that stacks using the comet as the reference, but also processes out the motion blurred stars that would be present if the comet was followed.  Deep Sky Stacker seems very good at doing this type of processing.

Panstaars and M31 - Click to Enlarge

Panstaars and M31 – Click to Enlarge

A few nights before, I took a shot with the Canon EOS 5D on the HEQ5 using just my 70-200mm Zoom.  This wider field 30s exposure shows the comet along with M31, the Andromeda Galaxy in the top right.  Strictly speaking, this was my first image of a comet.  It was, in fact, my first sight of a comet since the amazing display that Hale-Bopp gave us back in 1997.

Panstarrs Closeup from Widefield image

Panstarrs Closeup from Widefield image

I was hoping for the same sort of thing from comet ISON in November 2013, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, as the comet itself disintegrated following it’s close encounter with the Sun.  Didn’t even get a glimpse of that one!  The final comet of 2013 was Comet Lovejoy, which again, due to the terrible weather, I never had a chance to glimpse.  There are loads of good images of that one out there – wish I could have got one of them!  Comets are something that I’ve not yet had too much luck in seeing or imaging.  The weather always seems to conspire to stop me.  Anyway – hopefully the next nice comet will be more co-operative…

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