Day 662 – That Comet

It all seems so long ago now. In a galaxy far, far away.

But it was actually less than 3 weeks ago when the boy wonder and I stood on the front stoop at Suiderstrand and tried to find Comet Leonard somewhere in the vast Western skies over the South Atlantic Ocean.

A little route finding via instructions on the internet and a bit of good fortune, and there it was (sort of) in plain view. Kind of about that far [indicates an approximate distance] across to the left at about 10 o’clock from Jupiter.

Don’t bother looking now, of course.

Things will have moved.

We tried a million (only just an exaggeration) different ways of photographing it, fiddling with the ISO and the shutter speed on most every shot, and given that the wind was PUMPING, the locals had the place lit up – appropriately enough – like a Christmas tree, and we didn’t have any specialist equipment like a tracking mount and the like, I’m fairly happy with the results. A little tweak here and there in Lightroom has made a difference too.

Here are a few of our efforts:

Both at 211mm | 6s | f5.6 | ISO 6400

Yes, some streaking because of the exposure length required to get enough comet action, but actually, that only serves to make it look like it was moving very fast. Which it was of course (see below), but this isn’t whizzing in and out of the stars like you see in a movie or a cartoon. And yes, those two above are crops because even at 200mm, it’s still just a tiny smudge in the sky:

200mm | 8s | f5.6 | ISO 8000

In fact, even at 150mm (the widest my chosen lens could get) you’re still getting quite a good zoom on the thing. I should have taken a shot of the whole sky. The more I think about it, the more I realise that we did well to find it, let alone shoot it.

150mm | 2s | f5.6 | ISO 16000

A quick wave to (and a wish upon) the photobombing shooting star on that one.

Many people (with or without better equipment than me) will have taken many better shots of Comet Leonard, but I don’t care. We went out after dinner, stood in the relative darkness and the northwest wind with a tripod and a basic DSLR and took photos of a little 1km diameter ball of ice travelling away from us at 254,411 kph (70.67 km a second!!) and already 106,909,845 km distant.


More Comet Leonard information.

Day 656 – Alarm

It’s the last day of the kids’ summer holidays today. As with all these sort of things, it seems to have gone on forever, and yet also it seems to have passed by in an instant. Covid ruined a lot of the grand plans we had, but we still managed time away as a family, time away with friends, and yes, that little mini-break towards the end of it all.

And even then, it’s worth noting that sometimes not doing anything at all is just as important as doing anything at all.

I have grudgingly set the alarm for foolish o’clock tomorrow morning. I’m not looking forward to it waking me: I’d happily forgotten that that kind of time existed over the last 6 weeks.

It’s been nice.

On the plus side, I am looking forward to a little more rhythm and routine back in my life. Even though I am busier during the school terms, I find that I can also still get more done simply because I have deadlines and a bit of a schedule. And hopefully, that will include a bit more exercise, which I have been putting off because it scares me I’ve been waiting for the kids to go back to school. And because it scares me.

Last year was a tough one, but a good one for the kids. Here’s hoping that 2022 will be better in every way.

Day 652 – Scorcher

An absolute scorching day in Cape Town today, as we hear news from 6000 miles… away of snow and ice and grey misery.

Up early to bath the beagle, we spent much of the day building new desks and fitting new shelves in the kids’ bedrooms. Being outside between 10 and 3 was never an option.

I’d love to elaborate about the finer details of these tasks (and indeed, I’m sure you are desperate to learn more of them), but a very cold beer in or by the pool is calling me, and who am I to ignore its requests?

Day 617 – SOFS – and tomorrow’s solar eclipse

Last day of school today for our two. A very successful haul at their prizegiving and some very proud parents.
Well done, guys.

Later this evening, we will gather as a family around the braai to perform the age old ceremonies of the burning the exam timetables and the switching off of the weekday alarm clocks. And having a braai.

Although tomorrow (which isn’t a weekday), I might well be up a little earlier to see the solar eclipse. Weather permitting – and it’s not looking great.

This will be a TOTAL ECLIPSE if you are in Antarctica (but I’m not there): in Cape Town, we will only see a little nibble taken out of the sun – 11.5% at 0819 to be exact:

As you can see, South and West is the place to be for the best effect. Realistically, you’re not going to notice the missing 1% in Walvis Bay, much less the hidden 0.1% if you’re in Bloemfontein.

IMPORTANT: Don’t look at the sun through anything like a camera or telescope or with your naked eye.
Bad things will happen. Damage will occur.

Rather use a pinhole projector – they’re really easy to make at home.

But, returning to my original point, it’s the first day of the holidays, so if I look outside and it’s cloudy?
Straight back to bed.

Day 582 – Are we done yet?

I’m a bit finished. It’s 11am and the 10,000 steps for the day are done. Last night was a rough one, with kids up until all hours and everyone is suffering this morning. I’m being propped up by instant coffee and the opiate patch on my arm.

Oh, and the knowledge that I got my Chukka Partridge photos.

Ferry back today, but only just as it almost got pulled because of rough seas and we almost had to stay another night. As it is, we’re in for a bumpy ride this afternoon.

Again, it’s been an amazing trip, but I’m ready to see the family and sleep in my own bed tonight – hopefully without 2:30am shenanigans from any errant 12 year olds.