There’s a new kid in town and it’s name is C/2022 E3 ZTF. As soon as reports came in that there was a possibility of a comet coming close enough into view to see with the aided eye, the gauntlet was thrown. I was on a mission. Last night was the first of what I hope are more nights chasing this fuzzy green ball before it disappears for another 50,000 years (or more). After last night’s chase, it is apparent to me that early man most certainly did not see this comet! This is the account of last night’s chase – good luck if you, too, decide this is your mission. God speed!
- Develop insomnia
- Lay awake pondering. The sky is clear. There is no moon. It hasn’t been clear for quite some time. We are forecasted for a week more of snow and cloud. It’s relatively warm outside (-6). The comet is supposed to brighten later in the month – but what if it doesn’t??? What if I miss it! The self-talk eventually leads to…I must look right now! But where?
- It’s 1am. Research where the comet is. Apparently to the left and down from the last star in the tail of the Big Dipper. It narrows things down. I can find the Big Dipper.
- Lock up the cats. Pick a wide angle lens. I choose my 24mm Sigma. Winter coat over housecoat, long johns under nightie. Sorels over bare feet. Oh yeah, baby…the stuff of every man’s dreams!
- Out onto the deck and aim the camera so that I know I have the Big Dipper in frame and shoot. I use various settings and come in with about 6 shots.
- Let cats out of lockdown so their caterwauling doesn’t wake up hubby. Download to computer…I know I have a wide enough angle but can only see a sea of stars.
- More research. It is also near the constellation Draco.
- Look at my photos. I have just managed to get the entirety of Draco’s head and body into frame. Now I have a smaller field in which to search. This is a very faint object and I know I am looking for a fuzzy blob – supposedly green from some accounts, grey by others.
- I see a fuzzy blob! I have totally narrowed my search field. But, this is not good enough.
- Lock up the cats again. Back outside, this time choosing the big gun – my 150-600 Sigma. Switch to my heavier tripod. On the deck. Aim camera and shoot. Ack! Star trails. There is vibration from the house onto the deck and I cannot get crisp stars. Take tripod into yard, careful not to trigger the motion light. Ice everywhere. Set up, take aim. No luck. I cannot get anything to cooperate. Too late in the night to solve that particular problem. Back into the house, download again. No joy.
- Switch to my Canon 24-105 lens. This is not my favourite night lens as focusing to infinity is nearly impossible.
- Lock up the cats, back onto the deck. Take my time…focus on the tower by the school and shoot and adjust focus until I am relatively sure I have a good focus.
- Aim to the area of interest. Shoot several frames. I am now tired and cold and have told myself this is it. Last attempt.
- Into the house and back to the computer, well aware the clock tells me it is 2am. Even the cats have given up any thought of escape.
- Download this batch of photos and start my search. The field of view is narrower and I have a pretty good idea of where to look but did I aim correctly??? After zooming in and out and searching till my now tired eyes are burning, I see it!
- Now it’s just a matter of cropping.
- There it is nicely in frame. No tail visible, but that is an issue with the position of the comet in the sky relative to my position on earth. I crop further to exaggerate the comet.
- And now I can go to sleep…2:30am and ever so grateful I don’t work until noon! I achieved my goal and now have fingers crossed that as the comet gets closer, I will get another shot. Perhaps through the telescope next time. If not, that’s okay too. The thrill is in the chase.
- Keep watching the reports and mentally planning the next steps. Oh, and charging up the telescope!