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Celestial Sights : Comet Lovejoy in Alaska

Comet Lovejoy has been visible in the Northern Hemisphere, but peaked in magnitude on January 15th and is now headed away from Earth. Viewers can still see it with binoculars for probably only a while longer, so get out there soon. It will not be visible for another 8,000 years! Last night I went comet chasing, which I think is the first time since Hale-Bopp! I was just 9 years old at the time, but I remember sitting on the back deck at the house and observing the skies. You may have heard of comets in the news lately. During November 2014, the Rosetta Comet landing (Philae Lander) by the European Space Agency made history as the first time humans have landed a craft on a comet. Some incredible science will hopefully be done once the lander’s solar panels start gathering light again. However, one of the incredible things to come from the observation of the comet was the “sound” that a comet makes. “ESA’s Rosetta probe detected cyclical changes in the comet’s magnetic field environment. To make the comet’s magnetic ‘song’ audible to people, researchers sped up the data 10,000 times its actual rate.” (www.space.com). It has been likened to Predator (the movie), and the similarity is uncanny! The timelapse below includes the eerie and amazing ‘song’!


Comet Lovejoy does not have a huge tail, however is very, very distinctly green. I was told it was green, but the forest/lime green color was much more distinct that I was expecting! Through the night I shot the Lovejoy comet in a variety of methods, I learned a lot! The three images here are meant to give you an idea of where to find Lovejoy current, as well as the look of different focal lengths. At ~300 mm the maximum length of exposure without star trails is about 1.5 seconds.

If you want to get out to see Lovejoy in the next couple of nights let me know. It is worth it!

This image of Lovejoy will give you a good idea of where to look in the skies. The cluster of stars you see is the constellation the '7 Sisters'. On 01/17/2015 the comet was located below, and to the right of that constellation. This image was taken at 17mm, f/2.8, 25sec, ISO 1600
This image of Lovejoy will give you a good idea of where to look in the skies. The cluster of stars you see is the constellation the ‘7 Sisters’. On 01/17/2015 the comet was located below, and to the right of that constellation. This image was taken at 17mm, f/2.8, 25sec, ISO 1600
This images of Comet Lovejoy was taken at 100mm. f/4.0, ISO 3200, 3.2 seconds.
This images of Comet Lovejoy was taken at 100mm. f/4.0, ISO 3200, 3.2 seconds.
This image of Comet Lovejoy was taken at 286 mm. It starts to give you a pretty good idea of the green halo/fuzz which surrounds the comet. f/5.6, ISO 2500, 3.2 sec
This image of Comet Lovejoy was taken at 286 mm. It starts to give you a pretty good idea of the green halo/fuzz which surrounds the comet. f/5.6, ISO 2500, 3.2 sec
This abstract shot of the Comet Lovejoy was assembled in Star Trails. Because of the noise associated with these shots I had to edit it heavily. However, I love the neon green path that it it plows across the sky!
This abstract shot of the Comet Lovejoy was assembled in Star Trails from ~200 shots. Because of the noise associated with these shots I had to edit it heavily. However, I love the neon green path that it it plows across the sky!