Challenging Comets

We all love a challenge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture the small solar system object 2014 JO 25 this week, due to circumstances and clouds. However, over the last few weeks I did have fun tracking down two challenging comets. I live on a housing estate, with not only lots of light pollution, but neighbouring houses as well. So my horizon in many directions, leaves a lot to be desired. Two comets in particular were my targets. Terry Lovejoy discovered another cracker. Entitled C/2017 E4, I knew it was fairly low to the horizon. But on the morning of the 5th of April, I got up early at 4am to try and catch it. Out into the dark(ish) garden I went and started to set everything up. Once all on track, with camera focussed, I slewed the teescope round to the position and then realised the comet was still just behind a house quite a way from the observatory and dawn was starting to break. The comet did soon reveal itself as a green smudge on my images, and I had enough time to capture some subs to make a useful final image before the sky background started to overwhelm the comet.

The coma of the comet appears very flattened to me.
Below is the resulting image and a monochrome inverted version attempting to show some detail in the tail.

As the sky brightened, I couldn’t help capturing a couple of images of Saturn which was up in the south.

A couple of mornings later (7th April) I got up early once more hoping to capture Comet C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS. I got up at just before 4am thinking I would have at least an hour to capture a decent image… Unfortunately, I didn’t look up the circumstances properly beforehand (most unlike me). If you think Lovejoy was challenging, this raised the bar even further. When I got the camera set up and on the comets position, it was still only 3 degrees above the eastern horizon. So it was actually behind our fence (not to mention the neighbouring buildings). So it was a frustrating wait in the brightening dawn for it start to register on my images.

Here’s the sequence of images I took from rising above the fence until the brightness of the sky forced me to finally give in.


Here’s the resulting image.
It might not be much, but it’s mine, taken under very challenging circumstances:


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