Day 735 – Bye bye, Leonard

Remember my excitement at these photos?

They were the ones I took of Comet Leonard during our New Year visit to Cape Agulhas. There are more on the original post above, along with a full explanation.

Well, there’s bad news for Comet Leonard and its fans today, I’m afraid:

Looks like I got there just in time, having got my shots on 29th December. And, as you can read in my post above, while they might not have been the most amazing images that were captured of Leonard, I had no specialised equipment (literally: a tripod and a camera), and couldn’t even see the damn thing with my aging naked eyes. I was chuffed enough.

Bring on the next comet, and I’ll have another go.

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.

Wow.

More Comet Leonard information.