Taking Pictures of a Comet

Hi everyone!

With December gone, England also had a special guest in the sky for the month: the comet Wirtanen (also called 46P). Wirtanen was discovered in 1948 by Carl Wirtanen, and this year, it reached a bright magnitude of 4! Its was said to be closest to Earth on the 16th of December, but it was too below some buildings for me to see. It comes around every 5.4 years, so I hope to see it again soon!

From my bedroom window, I had a great view of Auriga and Wirtanen, and I could just about position my telescope to view the comet.

Naked eye and phone view

Wirtanen by phone

The picture above is from my phone. I’m really amazed at the lens quality; if I took that with my older phone, I would have mistaken it for the moon! It was really easy to distinguish the comet between stars. Just look how bright it is!

From the naked eye and phone lens, Wirtanen looked like a bright white dot, regardless of how much I zoomed in. From learning about 46P, I knew this isn’t what the comet actually looks like; I needed a telescope!

Using a telescope to take photos

Before we continue I need to state that my telescope is DEFINITELY not the best out there, in fact, I’d say it’s fairly useless for anything beyond the moon. Put that together with taking images with a smartphone, and you know the shots are going to be shoddy.

Wirtanen 20mm
Picture with my 20mm eyepiece, at roughly 10:50pm, 17/12/18

Hey, at least it’s green! It took 10 minutes to finally get this one, and I’m super proud of it. My first picture of a comet!

When you take pictures using a phone like I did, the objects are in the view of the phone, and then disappear, all in a flash. To combat that, I tried taking a video, and then pausing and screenshotting when the comet was in the frame.

The way you’d usually deal with this issue is to mount a camera (not a phone) onto the telescope with a camera adaptor or mount or other gear.

These were both taken at about 6:40am on the 18th, with a 12mm eyepiece. The images are a bit more blurry than the first one, but then again I used a 12mm so I’ve magnified the view more. I just love the green-ness of Wirtanen, and I’m so happy that it came out in my pictures!

Did anyone else get pictures of 46P? I’d love to see them!

Happy Stargazing!

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