A Monster Comet – 2014 UN271

There are many stories going around the internet about a “Monster” Comet which is making a beeline for our solar system.
Called 2014 UN271  (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), this comet is currently 20 Astronomical Units (20x the distance of Earth) from The Sun.
The comet is absolutely huge, possibly over 100km in diameter.



Comets that big have the potential to make extremely bright apparitions, like Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), which put on a fantastic display in 1997, or Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), which gave a very fine display in 2020.

2014 UN271 is heading towards us, but will take quite a few years, reaching its closest to The Sun (Perihelion) in January 2031.
This has caused many stories to come out about us seeing a fantastic comet at that time.
Why there has been a sudden flood of interest, I do not know.
We have known about this object and its orbit since 2014.

Unfortunately, this is never going to give us a great show, as even at its closest, the comet is not going to get any nearer to The Sun than the planet Saturn.

As a result, it will not be close enough to The Sun to be heated properly to make it very active for it to produce a lot of gas and dust and a large coma.
Plus being such a long way from Earth, this will reduce its apparent brightness even further.

It will be extremely interesting to see how it behaves, being a brand new Oort Cloud comet, but you can ditch any idea of seeing a real spectacle.

From an amateurs point of view, it is only going to appear as a faint smudge of light at its very best. It will only be visible in large telescopes and revealed using deep long exposure photographs.

UPDATE 7th July 2021
Some reports suggest that the comet may not be as big as first thought, as it may have a large coma already which is making it look bigger than the solid nucleus.
That’s what I love about comets, they always throw surprises.
So I will be following this story as it develops.

Perhaps they should send the proposed Comet Interceptor from ESA to get a better look at it?
This comet probe is due for launch a few years before in 2029.

Unfortunately, even the Comet Interceptor will not be able to explore this celestial visitor for two reasons.
This cometary probe will be using solar panels to power it.
At the nearest distance of the comet, these panels will not supply enough power to keep it going as it will be too far from The Sun.

Plus it would take a number of years for a probe like this to match the comets motion in space, to keep up with it.
We saw this with the Rosetta comet probe a number of years ago, which took over a decade to reach Comet 67P.


Below – Path of 2014 UN271 through our solar system in 2031,


An Experiment in Processing

I am constantly looking at different methods of processing images to develop better workflows and improve my images.

This is so I can see what different things work, and continue discovering new ways of processing images to improve the images.
When do process my images, I always try as hard as I can to make them look as natural looking as possible.

I always instil in people who attend my astrophotography workshops NOT to over-process their images.

As you can imagine, being such a purist, it really drives me mad to see so many really over-processed images popping up online and on social media, with all sorts of processing artefacts visible. But I am starting to think that I might be missing a real trick here.

In the early hours of the 20th of April, I was coming to the end of a short imaging session to capture Comet Leonard and some mono images.

I was desperate to try and get some RGB data to attempt a colour image with the setup I am trying out, but was short of bright objects to try it on.
I could see that Hercules was fairly high by this time, so despite the gathering murk, I though that I’d grab a few shots of The fantastic globular cluster M13.

I quickly rattled off a few shots using the three different coloured filters with the ZWO ASI183MM mono camera.

Now onto the processing.
It was never going to be a show-stopping image under those grotty conditions, but at least I got some RGB data to play with.

So, how did it turn out? The results are below.
The top image is a standard process using my tried and trusted technique.

The bottom image takes the processing a bit further, enhancing the brighter stars and their colours.


The bottom image, to my mind is well over-processed, but I felt that it does have something about it.

As an experiment, I thought I would put it to the test and posted them both on social media, asking which image folks preferred.

Apart from a few that liked the more natural looking top image, the vast majority of people who responded favoured the bottom image.

So this really was a eye-opener for me.
Does that mean I need to over-process my images to get more likes and shares, or should I stick to my principles?

What do you think folks?



International Sun-Day GoStargazing

I really enjoyed being a part of the Go Stargazing International Sun-Day yesterday.

I was on standby to hopefully show some live images of The Sun, but clouds thought otherwise.

My talk on the Sun went down very well.

If you missed it, you can catch up with it below.

All the other talks are available on the Go Stargazing Facebook page.

Sky Diary for June 2021

My Sky Diary for June 2021 is now available to view on YouTube.

As well as the electronic version below, the Sky Diary is published electronically using a TeamUp calendar.
Thank you very much to Steve Tonkin from binocular Astronomy and Neill Sanders from Go StarGazing, who are helping me to keep this right up to date.

To set up the calendar up on your mobile device, so you can carry it around and keep up to date,
download the TeamUp App from their Web Site:

Once the app is installed, add my Star-Gazing Sky Diary calendar using the URL below.

Please do let me know if I have missed anything out or have made a mistake.

My first image of Comet Leonard and Crescent Nebula

Being so busy lately,  I’ve somewhat neglected my blog for a while, so it’s time to take it up again.

On the evening of the 25th of May, we finally got prospects of a reasonably clear evening.
Despite the late time of the sky getting dark, and an almost full Moon, I decided to get the scope set up and see if I can capture an image of Comet C/2020 A2 (Leonard).

This comet could give us a great show later in the year. (Where have we heard that before?).
See my YouTube video below describing what we might expect from the comet.

I contacted my mate Kev, so he popped round to see the ASIAIR in action.

I had another problem with the Off Axis Guider, so ditched that for this session, guiding with a 50mm guide scope.

Got all set up before The Moon got too high and bright, then sent the scope towards Merak to calibrate the position.
I then used Sky Safari to GOTO the comet, which wasn’t located too far from that first magnitude star.
We quickly identified that we were looking at the correct star field so the comet should be right in the centre.

So I rattled off a number of short 30-second subs, not knowing how fast the comet was moving.
(I will do longer subs next time).

Once stacked, I got this very nice image below, showing the comet near some very faint galaxies.
The comet is about 16th or 17th magnitude, so has a long way to go before it gives us a good show.
But I was well pleased to capture the comet so early in the year.

Once I finished that, The Moon was getting extremely bright, so I switched to the Hydrogen Alpha filter and went to the location of NGC6888, The Crescent Nebula in Cygnus.
The resulting image is shown below.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and great fun to catch up with Kev again.




Virtual Astronomy Club – Katrin’s Stamp Talk

Katrin Raynor-Evans’ talk “Exploring Astronomy and Space Through Philately” is now available to view on YouTube.

All of our past sessions that have been recorded are available for viewing on my YouTube Channel:

They are also listed at the bottom of the Virtual Astronomy Club Web site:

Virtual Astronomy Club – Subscribe to Alerts

I have now set up an Automated E Mail system for The Virtual Astronomy Club.

So if you would like to be alerted with an E Mail before each Virtual Astronomy Club event, sign up for an alert E Mail using the form below.

See you online very soon.

Keep Safe.
Keep Well.
Keep Looking Up.




THE ASIAIR PRO – First Impressions

I have been fortunate in having an ASIAIR PRO very nicely sent out to me by First Light Optics.

It will give me a chance to have a play and review it for you.

First impressions are on the few clear nights I have had to test it out, is that it will be a game-changer in what I can offer, especially online educational streaming.

I have  uploaded my first impressions review on YouTube.

I’ll do a more more detailed review and run-through to follow, when we do get a clear night.

Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) could be good later this year.

Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) is causing some excitement as it HAS THE POTENTIAL be quite bright later this year.

What are we likely to see?

My YouTube video tells you all about what we currently know about Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard).

Where it can be found throughout the year and what we likely to expect to see in November and December, when it COULD become bright enough to be a naked eye comet.

The full Sky Diary listing lots more sky events can be accessed from my Web site:

Sky Diary for November 2020

My monthly look up at the night sky showing events for the month of November 2020.

Highlighting 5 outer planets visible the month, plus two potential comets (maybe!?) including C/2020 M3 (ATLAS), plus spotting the elusive lunar impact region of Mare Orientale at its best.

My electronic TeamUp calendar sky diary is available online at:
Download the app and install the sky diary to take it around with you.

Join us at The Virtual Astronomy Club on the 1st and 3rd of the month at 7pm.
Details on how to join in the astronomy fun is on the VAC Web page:

Keep Safe.
Keep Well
Keep Looking Up.

October’s Mars Opposition and Comet C/2020 P1.

Don’t forget, as well as this months Mars opposition, we also have Comet C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) coming north.

It will be visible in the morning sky from mid-month until mid November.

If you like my videos, please like them and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Thank You.

View my YouTube Comet C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) video here:

View my Sky Diary for October here:

The core of Comet NEOWISE

Although it is starting to fade now, Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is continuing to give us a great display.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my latest YouTube video on finding the comet:

So as long as you are looking in the right direction, you should not miss it.

Before it got properly dark last night, I stepped out into the garden and was amazed to see that the comet is now so far north, that it was visible from my usual viewing spot by my shed. So it was a mad scramble to get out the mount, quickly polar align and take a few DSLR images of the coma through the scopes. I tried the C11 and the Mak-Newt. The Mac-Newt gave better images, due to it’s wider field of view and brighter image.

By the time I finished that, the comet was just about to disappear behind the neighbours roof.

So it was time to dash out to my darker site to capture more details in the dust and ion tails.
This comet has been depriving me of sleep, conditions were fairly appalling, and the surrounding towns were throwing loads of light up into the sky.
So I only did a quick imaging run before finishing by 12:30am before returning home to try and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Both images taken using a Nikon D750 DSLR.
First image of the core taken through my 190 Mak-Newt. Second image using my 72mm refractor.



Comet C/2020 (NEOWISE) – 17th July 2020

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you probably realise that there is a spectacular comet on display at the moment.
It’s Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

It’s so far north that it is visible from the UK throughout the night.
As the evening gets dark, the comet can be seen in the north-north-west, fairly low down, but a very easy naked eye object.

Here’s my latest YouTube video on finding the comet:

So as long as you are looking in the right direction, you should not miss it.

The comet is currently in the lower part of the constellation of Ursa Major, The Great Bear just by the front paws.

On the 17th of July, it clouded over in the northern sky just before the sky started to darken. Typical!
So instead of staying close to home, I packed everything into the car and ventured out south to hopefully get a view of it and bag some more images.

Only 7 miles from home, I found myself parked up at the side of a country road within the North Bedfordshire villages area with a clear view towards the north.

The comet was now well above the low clouds, so I very quickly setup the two driven mounts, doing a very rough and ready polar alignment on each one. The sky still wan’t totally dark, but I I started capturing subs.

As the sky darkened the extent of the dust tail could be seen. It was so long.
One the sky was totally dark, I could follow it for at least 8 or 9 degrees, using averted vision.

It was a fine sight through binoculars, the pseudo-nucleus appearing star-like and the tail visible across the whole field of view and just outside, so probably about 6 degrees or so. Funny that the naked eye could see a lot more.

There were still some interfering clouds, but I started rattling off shot after shot.
The main driven mount was carrying a 72mm refractor with my Nikon D750 full-frame DSLR capturing close shots to try and capture detail in the ion tail. This had shown some lovely red colouration a few days ago.

The second more flimsy driven mount had a Nikon D5100 DSLR with a variety of fixed and zoom lenses to capture wider fields of view to capture the complete extent of the dust and ion tails and some wide angle star fields around the comet.

The sky seemed to go very clear at one point, but there was always some thin cloud hovering around the comet, and scudding in front of the comet, making it a real challenge to capture really clean subs. But I persevered.

I was absolutely gob-smacked at how long the tail was coming out in my images.
This confirmed what I thought I could see with the naked eye.

I continued a variety of shots until by 1am the clouds finally won the battle.
I watched and imaged the ISS pass over and then packed up for the night.

Now hours of processing follow…

The animation at the bottom shows material moving along the ion tail.

This was created from 40 reasonably clear subs.
The subs were stacked in groups of 10 to create 4 individual images.

The four images were then put together into the animated GIF.






























Adding Comet NEOWISE to Stellarium

If you are like me Stellarium is a fantastic planetarium program for showing people the sky and planning what you might be able to see.

My YouTube guide to finding the comet is here:

This guide is also available to view on YouTube.

Many of the maps I use in my guides are drawn using Stellarium.

But have you tried to find Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE using the software?

Is it there? Possibly not.

If you can’t find the comet in the software, here’s my guide on how to add the comet.

First step is to make sure that you have the most up to date version of Stellarium installed.
It can be downloaded from here:

Once the software has been installed, open Stellarium.

On the bottom left of the program, hover your mouse and a menu pops out.


Click the Configuration button. (Or just press F2).

This opens the Configuration Window.

Click the Plug-Ins Tab.

Scroll down the left hand side menu.

Find and click Solar System Editor.


Make sure Load at Startup is ticked.

Click the Configure Button.

Click the Solar System Tab.


Click the Import orbital elements in MPC format… Button at the bottom of this window.

Click the Lists Tab.

Where it says Select the type, select Comets.

Select Download a list of objects from the Internet.

Underneath where it says Select a bookmark… click the drop down menu.

Select the first option Gideon van Buitenen; comets as shown above.

Click the Get orbital elements button.


In the search bar start typing in the comets name C/2020 F3.
It should appear in the search list in the bottom of the window.

Select the comet by putting in a tick mark with the mouse.

Click Add Objects.

Close all the menus.

The comet should now be displayed and will be searchable when running Stellarium as shown below.

You and Stellarium are now ready for Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE.

Have fun.







Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) Now Circumpolar

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now circumpolar from the UK.

If you’d like to see some of my Comet images, visit my Flickr Comet Gallery.

Visit my recent blog update on the comet.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Selfie-C2020F3NEOWISE-20200712-Z75_5243-WebBeing circumpolar means that the comet is visible throughout the night as it never sets from our latitudes.

The comet starts to become visible in the North-north-western sky as the sky gets dark, easily visible to the naked eye.

The comet is sporting a very bright dust tail, but it has also developed a very nice ion tail.

Some images, including a couple of mine, showing not only the expected blue colour within it, but there is red as well.

The tail is now at least 8 degrees in length and the tail/s should get longer as our perspective changes as the comet passes Earth later this month.

The image below shows the progression of the comet across the sky.
It is moving away from the area close to Auriga.
The bright yellow star Capella and Beta Aurigae, visible lower left are your best guides to find the comet.

Once Capella is visible in the fading twilight, start hunting for the comet.

Move left to find the beta star, then extend the line outwards and slightly upwards to find the comet.
It should be at least 15 degrees above the horizon at this time.
At it’s lowest at around midnight, it is still 9 degrees above the northern horizon.

By dawn it is visible low down in the north-north-eastern sky, but be quick, the brightening dawn from 3:30am BST will drown out the comets glow.

At the time of writing (15th July) the comet is in the constellation of Lynx.
Unfortunately this constellation is small and fairly indistinct, so it doesn’t have any bright stars within it, so Capella and beta are still your best guides.

By the 19th of July, the comet has moved further north and will be located right by the forelimbs of Ursa Major, The Great Bear, very close to the third magnitude star Iota (Talitha).

As the comet is getting closer to Earth it should be looking a lot bigger. How bright it will be at this stage no-one knows. but being closer to Earth it should hold its brightness quite well. At this time the comet will still be in Ursa Major, located directly below familiar seven stars of The Plough.

The direction the tail is pointed would have turned slightly anti-clockwise and should also appear a lot longer as our perspective changes.


On the 23rd of July Comet NEOWISE will be at its closest to Earth when it will be 103m Km distant, ~40x the distance of The Moon.

Will the comet fragment and fade long before then? Or will it get brighter?

The only way to know for sure is to get yourself out at any possible opportunity and have a look at this magnificent object.

Sleep’s for wimps!!

It could be more than 25 years before we see another comet as bright as this.

If you’d like to see some of my Comet images, visit my Flickr Comet Gallery.

Visit my recent blog update on the comet.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

See my NEOWISE Observing guide on YouTube.


Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) update

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now putting on a great show.

The tail has now extended to about 5 degrees long and getting brighter.
It is now sporting a dust and ion tail.

See my previous Blog entry from the 6th of July.

I have now added a video to help show where you can find the comet and what we might expect from it!

Just get yourself out and have a look, (When the weather allows, of course) and you might even see some noctilucent cloud (NLC) activity into the bargain.

Have fun.