The Ghost of Comet Faye

2018.05.03
I was up at the crack of dawn and through my window I noticed Jupiter, brilliant and bright after the rain and presenting a perfect photo opportunity. Through my camera lens I could see three of Jupiter’s moons lined up to one side of the planet. After downloading the images to my computer, I was thrilled that the fourth moon, Ganymede, showed up in the glow of the planet as well, but that was not all that became visible. There was a definite faint greenish object in all of my images. Lens flare/ ghosting came to mind but it just seemed different. The object was somewhat elongated.

I was imaging in the constellation of Libra. Could there be, had I found, what in heaven’s name was this strange object in my images? It was then that I read all about Comet 4P/Faye sailing through Libra ( May 2018), plotted on charts almost precisely at the location of the object in my images!

Did I stop to ask myself whether it would have been possible to capture a +22 mag comet with my camera? No!
Did I think that maybe the object was moving too fast in 10 min intervals to be a comet? No! I had read that 4P/Faye was a mover.

The scales tipped, I almost jumped out of my skin, I had imaged another comet! Nothing close to my previous Mc Naught, Lovejoy or PanStarrs but a very dim one this time, even dimmer than Comet C2012 F6 (Lemmon) which I imaged in 2013.

The comet sage in Libra still weighs heavily on my shoulders. If it were not for Slooh members, who are regular comet hunters, my image could have gone down in history as a hoax. They pointed out that comet 4P/Faye was far too dim – even for the Slooh telescopes.

But there was something there which I could not ignore and so I’ll always remember that morning when the Ghost of Comet Faye paid a visit in Libra….

Footnote: Do not try +22magnitude objects at home!

Smartphone Moon Photography

I’ve been doing my fullmoon shots with my camera and 400mm lens on a tripod for some time now.

Then along came Slooh with the #supermoon- challenge which inspired me to go out for a few nights in a row to capture the waxing Moon.

I thought, what if I attach my cellphone to my telescope? This is when the real fun began. I’ve been able to push to a 6mm eyepiece but you have to be really quick if you have no tracker on your scope like me It’s quite tricky.

First I identify the area that I want to shoot – then focus the telescope with cellphone attached. I bought one of those adaptable cellphone holders. A word of caution – cellphones slip easily if you’re not careful. When I’m happy with the adjustment of the cellphone holder and focus is ok, I nudge my telesope so that the area to be shot is just outside of the field of view. As the area moves into view I take shots with a feather light tap on the cellphone screen. Then it’s to my computer to sort the blurry ones from the not so blurry ones! If your telescope has a tracker, things will be much easier but then you’re most probably already doing astro photography for real 🙂

Someone suggested that I should try to zoom in more but believe me, it will get really tricky if you are already using a high powered eyepiece because the motion of the Moon becomes intensified. Others advised that I should use continuous shooting. One could experiment with this but I have had no luck up to now. My cellphone’s camera seems to adjust focus and my continuous shots have all been very blurry.

Each cellphone is obviously different. The camera’s auto setting will most probably not give the best result. With some of my shots I even tried the “beauty” setting . So just play around with what you’ve got and try all your modes and exposure settings. The holders come in different sizes so make sure the dimensions will fit your phone. Read reviews on the different makes of holders before you buy. Some guys in my astronomy group have printed their own holders on a 3D printer.

Instead of going into a slump after the supermoon adventure, I will continue seeking interesting formations on the Moon. Eventually my plan is to do sketches of the images that I captured during this challenge.