Cosmic Double Header In Reverse

As we had last night, there was a bright, glorious ISS pass to go along with better and better views of Comet NEOWISE. But orbital mechanics being what they are and out of my control, tonight we’re doing them in reverse order. First we have the gorgeous ISS pass, and then it gets dark enough to view the comet.

The ISS pass was wonderful to watch, but difficult to photograph because it started at 20:30 and it’s still too bright at that point to do what I did yesterday. Yesterday’s images were five seconds long because it was dark. Similar images today would have been nothing but white from border to border, completely overexposed. The camera wanted to do 1/4 second exposures at the most, but I’m the PIC (Photographer in Command, in this case) so I set it for 1 second exposures and hoped for the best.

The results were marginal looking to where the ISS was rising in the west, but pushing the contrast in Photoshop at least allowed the station’s path to be seen, coming out of the glare of twilight toward the upper left corner. At least I’m getting a lot better on planning where to point the camera!

Headed over the horizon to the northeast the sky was darker, so there wasn’t as much tweaking necessary in Photoshop. You can also see where one of the big jets out of LAX was headed off to Asia at one point during the sequence. That bright star visible right next to the ISS path about half way is Vega, a very bright star, just starting to be visible as night falls.

I had to wait another half hour for it to get dark enough to see the comet. Again tonight it’s higher than it was yesterday, staying up longer while it gets darker, and easier to see. Again I’m emphasize if you’re looking – BINOCULARS! It looks fantastic.

This is a fifteen second view…

…and this is a twenty second image toward the end of the evening, shifting around the yard to try to dodge those trees blocking my view. These were both taken with the telephoto lens at 75mm.

Seeing if I could zoom in (better close ups of the comet) and take longer images (gather more light, but it’s a balancing act because the Earth’s moving and the image will smear if you’re not tracking) I tried to see what happened and got this at 300mm zoom and a ten second exposure:

It’s a little smeared and disappearing down behind that tree, but if you blow it up to full sized you can see how the comet’s tail is spread and curved. No chance with this rig, this low, and this light polluted to see the blue ion tail.

But that wasn’t my main goal for the night. From the time that the comet started to be really visible in the twilight (21:08) until it went behind that tree (21:25) I had cameras set up to take one photo after another, fifteen second exposures. Then I used that trick I learned in Photoshop…

This is the “regular” lens with a taller image, so that you can see the Big Dipper at the top. The comet is at the bottom, between those trees, heading down and to the right. I love this little video, the really clear, easily recognizable constellation spinning at the top, and how some of the stars in the Big Dipper “blink” as they go behind the power lines.

But I said I had cameras set up – plural. The big lens was also running!

Watch how it gets darker as time goes by and the stars in the constellation Lynx (below the Big Dipper) start to come out and the comet’s tail just gets brighter and more prominent as twilight fades!

This is easily my best work yet. I didn’t know how it would turn out, and there’s plenty of room for improvement still, but I’m very excited with how this turned out.

I’m posting the full-sized videos above. (I hope – it’s really late.) They’re also on my YouTube channel, but at reduced resolution.

And what happens after you’re done with that? Well, the first video is made up of forty-seven images, but that’s from a series of fifty images. I didn’t know exactly when the comet disappeared behind the tree. And that forty-eighth image?

The comet can just barely, almost, maybe be seen behind that tree – but the helicopter that came by missed its opportunity to photobomb my work!

But tomorrow’s photobombing, if I can pull it off, could be on a par with tonight’s results.

Stand by and happy hunting!

1 Comment

Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Video

One response to “Cosmic Double Header In Reverse

  1. Your trees are so similar to my trees, I could almost pass one of thos off as my own shot!
    Great work. Reminds me to get the old camera out and charge its battery. It might just do the job for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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