Last week I was able to get some good images of Comet 144P/Kushida which was located in the constellation Taurus and near the star Aldebaran. Being this close to a bright star makes it fairly easy to find.
I first shot using an 80-200mm zoom lens. The short end (80mm) gave me a wide field of view to find the comet and then I zoomed to the long end (200mm). After about a half-hour of shooting I decided to switch to the 200-500mm zoom lens. Starting at 200mm to center the comet, I then zoomed to 500mm. The image above is the result of stacking 22 images (11 minutes exposure time) then post processing with rnc-color-stretch and finally, Lightroom and Photoshop. Above is a screen shot from the sky application Stellarium showing the field of view at 500mm.
Bonus: image of the waxing gibbous Moon a week later. The image was converted from RGB to L*a*b color space and then the two color channels were adjusted to bring out the subtle colors of the Moon.
The sunrise after a winter storm often results in beautiful scenery and colors. Low-lying areas may have shallow fog. Mountains may have multiple layers of clouds. All of this is enhanced by the low sun angle as it first rises above the horizon.
On the other hand, getting up before sunrise, driving on snow-packed roads, and standing around shooting photos with cold temperatures is a challenge. But the results are often worth the effort. Here are a few sunrise photographs.
This week should bring lots of snow to northern Arizona. I hope to get some interesting photographs.
I was fortunate to see another spectacular launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Christmas Eve morning. I typically check the launch listing sites every few days to keep track of when the next launch will be. These are listed weeks or even months ahead of the launch date–although the dates can and do change. There are exceptions to this advance posting: certain top-secret satellites are often announced with only 24 hours notice. The SARah 2 & 3 satellites had this abbreviated announcement.
Fortunately, I happened to check the updated schedule about 12 hours before launch so I was able to make preparations for viewing it.
The launch was scheduled for 0611 MST (0511 PST) on the morning of December 24. I went north of Flagstaff to the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
The launch was on time at 0611 MST and about a minute later I was able to see the rocket as it rose above the horizon. I wasalso able to photograph the first stage separation. A few minutes later the high-level clouds appeared once the rocket had ascended high enough to be illuminated by the Sun–which was still well below the horizon at my location.
Here are a few photographs of the launch plus a time-lapse video that shows the dramatic expansion of the high-altitude cloud from the rocket exhaust.
SpaceX/Falcon 9 launch of the SARah 2 & 3 satellites.
The next launch is in a week but may be too late in the evening to catch the last light of twilight.
This is the first of what will be many posts on this comet. Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks will be in the western sky in the evening for the next few months and could brighten enough to be visible to the unaided eye. Right now, however, it is quite dim at a magnitude of +9.0 and is located near the star Vega in the constellation Lyra.
Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is a cryovolcanic comet. When exposed to the sun’s warmth the pressure within this cryomagma builds up until it triggers the release of gases, expelling icy fragments (and the gases) through cracks in the comet’s outer layer and into space. 12P has already had multiple bursts which have resulted in rapid brightening.
I ventured to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, an International Dark Sky Park, to shoot images of the comet. As noted above, it very close to the bright star Vega which made it very easy to find. My primary goal was to use my Nikon 180mm f/2.8 AIS lens, a legacy manual focus lens known for value in astrophotography and so that I could capture the full constellation. My secondary plan was to use the Nikon 200-500mm lens at its maximum zoom showing just Vega and 12P.
Owing to being a bit out of practice (it happens), both my focussing and star tracking were suboptimal. Something to work on for my next shoot.