Updates: January 2014
UPDATE: Tuesday January 14th 2014: “Losing Lovejoy”
I really don’t think it will be long now until Comet Lovejoy fades beneath the reach of modest equipment like mine, so I’ve written a new astropoem about it, kind of a thank you and goodbye…
…and there you are again, still shining
Stubbornly above the trees,
An on-the-very-edge-of-sight star
Far to icy Vega’s lower right,
Bathed in lonely Rasalhague’s glow.
Nowhere near as easy to see as you were
On Christmas Eve; your head no longer
That bright, Kryptonite green
It was while our longing eyes
Were fixed on lying ISON.
There you are again, old friend,
A sky wraith, fading away,
Still shining softly as darkness greys
And birds wake to greet the approaching dawn with song.
I’ve followed you for many Moons now,
Watched you grow from a lowly smear
In an eyepiece on a star-spattered Kielder night
To an emerald green, lace-tailed light
Above frost-whitened fells
Playing hide and seek through scudding clouds,
Your tail, clipped from a vapour trail,
Drawn in pastel shades of lavender and blue
As you fell silently through the sky,
Gliding past Procyon before flying fearlessly
Beneath the Beehive and slipping through
The gap between Cancer’s nipping claws,
Brightening, tail growing,
Shamefully ignored as ISON fever gripped the world,
People everywhere unaware Another was there
For them to see…
Almost gone now, almost gone.
It won’t be long before you’re lost to me.
But ‘til then every chance I have to see
You fading into the night
With these sleep-deprived eyes I’ll take,
© Stuart Atkinson 2014
UPDATE: Sunday January 12th 2014: Lovejoy really fading now…
Our much-beloved Christmas Comet, Comet Lovejoy, is still there, but a lot fainter, and smaller, and harder to pick out from the background stars, than it was the last time I looked. The past two mornings I got up early to try and get some more photos – with mixed success!
Yesterday morning I looked out the window and just before six and was greeted by the welcome if unexpected sight of a beautiful clear and starry sky, so I grabbed all my gear and hared up to my little woodland clearing to take some more Lovejoy pics. Set up, aimed camera, set camera, pressed the shutter button to begin the exposure –
“No card in camera” said the screen.
I’d left my memory card in my card reader on the table, after downloading some pictures the previous night! IDIOT!!!!!
Luckily I’d only walked 5 minutes or so from home, so I was able to dash back, grab the card, put it in and dash back to my observing site again… but of course, in that time, just in those few minutes, the sky misted over, completely, not a hint of a gap left.
But I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. I waited for another good half hour, until small gaps began to appear in the cloud cover, and eventually, with the birds starting to sing their dawn chorus, and the first hint of brightening in the east, I managed to get a couple of pictures. They needed some work doing to them, but at least I got something…
I know what you’re thinking – “Er, where is it?” so here, this will help…
I tried cropping and enhancing the comet a little but I’m not sure it was worth it to be honest…
But hey, at least I got something…
Then this morning, another optimistic early wake up, and another clear sky, not as clear as yesterdays, a little more hazy,but definitely good enough to go comet-hunting in. So, grabbed my gear – card securely in camera, and a newly-bought lesson-learned spare tucked away inside my camera bag too – and headed out, and within ten minutes was taking pics of Lovejoy. It’s still there, but it’s a bit of a fight capturing it wth a basic camera-on-tripod-only set up now, because it’s a lot fainter, a lot smaller in the sky, and is heading into a very rich starfield too, so it’s starting to become lost in the star froth of the Milky Way. But it is still there, and worth taking a look at when the sky is clear above you next…
Lovejoy is centre, just to the left of the bright star over to the right (which is Rsalhague, by the way).
This time cropping it has worked rather well, I think…
I also did a bit of experimenting this morning, taking some pictures of the sky, minus a comet, to see how stacking them would work, really testing out the potential of my observing site for more general astrophotography. Pretty pleased with the results too…
That’s the constellation of Lyra, The Lyre, and the mega bright star is Vega. Quite pleased with that, and it shows my little observing site has great potential for the future I think! :-)
Update: Friday January 3rd 2014: Lovejoy Fading…
Against all the odds I managed to get a couple more images of Comet Lovejoy this morning. I headed up to “Little Kielder” at 5am, under a beautifully clear, starry, sparkly sky, but it was blowing an absolute gale as a storm started to move in from the west, and I had to literally hold the camera tripod down while I took pictures. That meant most were blurry – it’s impossible to keep perfectly still while doing that, the vibrations run through you and through the tripod too – but I managed to salvage a handful of shots, and stacking them together and tweaking them a bit has resulted in a couple of “Hmmm, not bad…” pics..!
Lovejoy is a lot smaller and fainter now than it was just a few weeks ago, so to give you a sense of scale here’s one of the uncropped stacked images – a stack of 5x 50mm 4 sec exposures, each shot at f2 and 6400ISO…
And now a couple after “a bit of work”… :-)
I had planned on taking a lot more pictures, but by 05.30 clouds were rushing in, being lit from behind by brilliant flashes of lightning, so I decided that standing out in the open with a big metal tripod for company probably wasn’t the best idea ever, so I headed home again! But at least I got the pics…
I wonder how many more I’ll manage to sneak before Lovejoy is too faint?
Update: January 1st 2014: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
First of all, can I wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Glad to see you came back to the blog even after 2013 ended, and I hope you’ll keep coming back during 2014 because there will be at least a couple of noteworthy comets in the sky, and who knows what surprises will come out of the deep during the next twelve months..?
By the way, has anyone noticed how quiet the ISON/Nibiru/Wormwood/Armageddon/Rapture nutters have suddenly fallen? Brilliant isn’t it :-) You have to feel sorry for them; they must be feeling SO embarrassed today, what with all their doom-mongering Comet ISON predictions coming to nothing. Oh, the shame of it, the humiliation! After all those months of spouting utter, utter bulls**t on YouTube and Twitter there was no “Red Hand of Death”, no earthquakes or tidal waves, no invasion by UFOs, no clouds of angels filling the sky, no alien ambassadors greeting us from their majestic extraterrestrial biospheres, no Earth-shattering fly-by of Nibiru… nothing. NOTHING. And are they acknowledging that? Is there a single honest, hands up “We got it wrong, we were just talking crap, sorry if we scared anyone…” apology? Naaah. Don’t be daft. All we’ll hear now is silence, a deafening, deluded, denying silence from the idiots who spent so much time last year trying their best to either misinform or terrify people about the comet. If I have one wish for 2014 it’s that it will be the year these idiots, nutters and cranks finally get bored with their conspiracy theory garbage and start to channel their energies into actually looking at the real sky and appreciating the real wonders of the universe. But I already know that’s not going to happen, and I don’t need a crystal ball to predict that all their lunacy about Comet ISON is going to seem like a warm up act for off the scale tin foil hattery come October, when Comet Siding Spring scrapes past Mars.
I can tell you all now that I will be covering that event here on this blog, and again there will be zero tolerance for the conspiracy theorists.
But enough of that for now! Let’s start 2014 postively, by taking another look at Comet Lovejoy!
Yes, it’s still there, still visible after sunset and before dawn for observers in the northern hemisphere, but only if you make the effort to get out there and see it. It takes some hunting down now, because it’s now way below naked eye visibility, and requires binoculars or a small telescope to be seen. But it is still a pretty easy photographic subject of you have the right equipment and techniques, a dark sky, and patience.
Earlier today – when 2014 was just half a dozen hours old – I headed up to my “Little Kielder” woodland clearing observing site to take some more photos of Comet Lovejoy. I went up there the other evening actually, hoping to get some photographs of Orion drifting behind the trees, and they turned out pretty well…
This morning it was yet another case of waiting (im)patiently for gaps in the clouds to drift over the comet’s position, and that took AGES, but eventually I was able to grab it, and here are my best photos from New Year’s Day 2014…
Not sure how many more pictures I’ll manage to get of Lovejoy, we have some seriously bad weather coming in, but I’m sure these won’t be the last. :-)
Again, Happy New Year everyone!