Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 2018

December 19th 1540 GMT

The waning gibbous moon was low in the east and I took some frames with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 400 and 1/1000 second exposure.

December 19th 1050 GMT

I had some clear sky but the Sun appeared featureless in hydrogen alpha light, despite a lot of etalon tuning.

December 18th 2215 GMT

It had been very wet but there was finally a clear patch. It was very wet, so I did not feel keen to expose any photographic gear to the elements for long. Comet Wirtanen was also very near the Moon. I did some DSLR shots of the Moon only, using my usual techniques.

December 17th 0105 GMT

After a very wet day, it cleared for a while. It took me some time to track down Comet Wirtanen. Although I could see no sign of a tail, there was a definite condensation in the centre that I hadn’t seen visually before. I took several frames at 70mm and 300mm focal length of the comet and the nearby Pleaides (M45).

This was a composite shot with some frames at 70mm focal length. DSS did not work so I used Microsoft ICE and a lot of processing to get rid of red noise.

The other frames at 300mm revealed less details than the close-ups. Astrophotography is like that sometimes!

December 13th 2240 GMT

I moved the camera to the general direction of M35 and saw a Geminid meteor pass south of Taurus into Cetus.

I only processed one set of frames. The others showed M35 but no meteors.

December 13th 2140 GMT

I was not able to see Comet Wirtanen through my camera viewfinder but set a trap anyway with ISO 6400, 70mm focal length and 8 seconds exposure. I hoped that if I missed the comet, I might catch a Geminid meteor or few.

While the camera was snapping away, I swept the same area of sky with my binoculars. The comet appeared like a large globular star cluster or elliptical galaxy with no sign of a tail. I estimated that the coma was at least a degree across.

The first set of frames showed the comet near the bottom right. Photographically, it appeared to have a brighter centre than it did visually. I also caught parts of the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters,

The second set of frames caught the Hyades in full.

The remainder of the shots showed the Hyades but no meteors.

December 13th 1930 GMT

Conditions were quite poor but I tried to snap the waning crescent moon.

December 10th 0950 GMT

The Sun was low and visible through a gap in the clouds. I would have preferred to have seen it later in the day but the forecast was bad. It showed no detail visually and I was hoping that some would reveal itself in the photos. Well a bit did!

December 9th 2345 GMT

Conditions were the same as the night before, except that different sky patches were clear. However, there was still lots of moving thin cloud around the clear bits and photography was simply not feasible. This time, I saw the Pleaides (M45) again, which showed slightly more stars, the Orion Great Nebula (M42) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The Plough showed quite nicely, so I bagged Alcor with Mizar. It was simply too cloudy to find the comet but I saw the Perseus Double Cluster and Melotte 20.

December 8th 2350 GMT

It was mostly cloudy, with a few breaks in the cloud, one of them, fortunately, being to the south. I kept scanning up and down the Taurus/Cetus borders. Whilst enjoying some widefield views of the Hyades (which I cannot capture in their entirety with my binoculars, it took me some time before I found a faint, diffuse object. It was Comet Wirtanen. Spectacular it wasn't and there was no hint of a tail. I was hoping for some better conditions in the next few days.

I also managed some nice views of the Pleaides (M45) and Beehive (M44) before cloud rolled in and I was pelted by rain. At least I saw some action during a bad period and saw my 21st comet ever.

December 4th 0635 GMT

The Moon and Venus were close together in the morning sky, so I used various combinations of zoom and ISO to capture the event.

December 3rd 2030 GMT

I started later than I expected, as I had to recharge my camera batteries. I aimed my camera at Perseus in an attempt to add to my mosaic. I stacked 25 frames at a time.

This was the stack of the evening's shots and the previous ones. I still haven't finished the constellation yet!