Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I SAW IT! (Comet Lovejoy's Tail in the Twilight)

Comet C/2011 W3 Lovejoy's tail imaged around Nautical twilight on December 21, 2011. Left Image: Comet Lovejoy's tail at 4:54 am ACST, Largs North Adelaide, 5 second exposure with a Canon IXUS 100IS, 400 ASA at 3x zoom. Right Image: Comet Lovejoy's tail at 4:57 am, 4 second exposure with a Canon IXUS 100IS, 400 ASA 3x zoom. Compare with Vello Tabur's image. Click to embiggen, the faint tail goes past epsilon Scorpii (star centre of images)

Got up at 4:30 am this morning, and the sky was magnificently clear. Struggled into my gear and headed out with binoculars and camera. Unfortunately, the comet was located not only close to the horizon, but towards the greatest concentration of sodium lights in my area and the brightly lit cement factory. With the help of Google SkyMap on my mobile phone (cringe) I located the rough area where the comet should be around 4:50 am.

Soon as I swept with binoculars I could see it, once I knew that I was actually looking at the comet tail (rather than a thin plume of smoke from the cement factory), it was identifiable (just) to the unaided eye.

Like Vello Tabur I could easily identify the tail on images taken with my digital camera (not an SLR). The tail extended past epsilon Scorpii, so was at least 5 degrees long.

The tail was easily identifiable in binoculars out to at least 5:09 am ACDST. At no stage could I see the head though (in contrast to the recent telescopic daylight images), even though faintish stars like epsilon Sco and mu 1&2 Sco were easily visible in binoculars.

So I have to get up a 4:00 am to catch the sky at it's darkest and see if I can get better images of the tail.

I also got to see the ISS shoot between Spica and Saturn and the Moon, so it was a VERY good morning.


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