Astrophotography is something I never would have thought I’d become interested (fixated, thrilled by, enamored maybe even) in but it seems I have. We’ve shot full moons including blue ones and a blood one. There was the total eclipse in Kentucky in 2017 (see that post here) and the Milky Way last year in Utah ( post here) so we thought we only had star trails as a new night sky thing to do.
We were wrong!
Something new was coming and wouldn’t be back for over six thousand years. A comet named Neowise that was just recently discovered. We didn’t find out about it until just last week so we had to scramble to get ready for it and by get ready I mostly mean get ready to find it! But between some photography friends who had already shot it and a phone app (Stellarium) we knew just where we had to go.
To the dam!
We went to the Alum Creek dam with phone app and photography equipment in tow; along with a folding chair because it was going to be a wait. Here in Ohio it was showing an hour after sunset so that meant hanging out for awhile until after 10pm. We parked our car way down one end of the path to the top of the dam and walked until the app told us where the comet would show. Afterwards, walking back with flashlights in the dark while bugs found our lights very appealing was…interesting.
While we waited, we watched all of the people enjoying their time on the lake as the sun was setting. A flock of geese came in and paddled about for awhile and as it got darker we saw some bats doing their acrobatic bug catching. I was rooting for them to eat as many of the pesky things as possible. Go, bats, go!
It wasn’t until around 10:15 that we first caught sight of the comet. Here’s a tip for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Look for the Big Dipper and then start looking around the bottom of the bowl of the dipper; Neowise appears around there. When I first spotted the comet there was still a bit of lingering light for the sunset and I was down and to the left of where it appeared. In the image below you can just spot it in the upper right corner. It looks like a triangle of three bright stars with the comet being the top light. I wonder if those two very bright spots at the bottom of the triangle are some of the planets that are supposed to be aligning this week?
A little humor about “finding” Neo (get the joke?) we couldn’t spot it with our naked eyes or our cameras initially until two very nice ladies on the dam with us who were quite a comic duo with the banter between them, spotted it first. One of them brought her binoculars and found it and with a lot of hands pointing in every direction (it was a comedy for awhile there) I finally found it and began shooting.
When you look up at the moon, stars and planets you may not think there is much movement but the earth is rotating and that will determine what shutter speed you will need to use to capture celestial objects. Your shutter speed will vary depending on your camera, lens and if you use a star tracker. DH now wants a star tracker. I’m agreeing with him on this one!
Neowise is set to be closest to the earth on July 22nd so if you haven’t seen it yet you still have a bit more time. Happy sky gazing!