Comet McNaught, 2006
January 10th, 2007
Comet McNaught has been touted as the
best comet in the last 30 years, but I would have to disagree.
While it did actually brighten to
about -1.5 magnitude and have a rather
nice tail, other detractors made it a less than optimal comet. First,
it's bright period was very short,
only about a week long. Second, it
appeared in the dead of winter and in my area this meant one clear day
during that week. Third, it was
very close to the sun so observations
were limited to twilight skies and all the problems inherent to
Nonetheless, on the afternoon of
January 10th, 2007 it was predicted to be partly clear here in northern
Ohio. My wife and I got off work at 3pm,
rushed home and loaded up the truck and
started heading south where the skies were supposed to be totally
clear. We quickly realized that afternoon
traffic was not going to allow us to
get very far so we decided to head to the Wellington fairgrounds, which
has a really nice south western horizon.
To our chagrin, we arrived to find a
train stopped on the crossing, which is the only entrance to the
fairgrounds. We rushed to the lower grounds
reservior, which is located another 10
minutes to the south. We began setting up on the lake shore and
were pleased to see that the clouds in the
southwest were rapidly dissipating.
While I set up our gear Dorothy took some shots of the lake and the
Sunset was at about 5:15 and at about 5:34 Venus was readily
apparent. I was getting nervous at this point and thinking that the
already below the horizon. I should be able to see a -1.5 object,
I thought, but was having no luck. I was using my 7x50 multi-coated
binoculars and scanning back and forth across the horizon. I
stopped scanning for a moment so I could put my hands in my pockets. It
degrees with a slight breeze making the wind chill temperature at
somewhere around 20 degrees.
As I stood there warming my hands for a minute the comet just simply
popped into view. There where nothing had been a moment before was
a stunning comet! The coma was very dense and pristine white. The tail
extended about 2:00 and was several degrees long, widening as it left
the coma. The tail was also white. I saw no eveidence of an ion tail.
I shouted to Dorothy, "I got it! I got it!" then gave her the
binoculars and quickly showed her where it was. I grabbed
the Canon 30D and
fired off several shots before moving the camera to prime focus
on the scope.
As the comet sank into the western
horizon it became redder in appearance. I shot 24 images at prime
focus of my Meade 8" SCT. I watched the comet
sink down into a tree and then through a cloud bank. It emerged on the
lower side of the cloud and then proceed into a another cloud just
above the horizon.
When I got home and warmed up I used the 24 images shot through the
scope to make the following animation.
January 17th, 2007
Wel, it's been a
week now of cloudy days and nights here in Northern Ohio.
The Comet has made it's closest approach to the Sun and is now dimming.
Dave G and I agreed that the first clear afternoon we would try to
capture the comet in daytime sky.
We met at Dave's Observatory at about 4:00pm and quickly setup.
We lined up our
equipment to the south west and immediately captured
the following image, which we
:-) (I guess you had to
There sure were
a lot of Comet McNotttt's this afternoon!
We scanned the
skies for several minutes before sighting a dim fuzzy
glow low in the trees southwest of the sun.
This shot will
show the proximity of the sun and comet.
You can see the
sun in the upper right corner and the comet is inside
the large red circle. Look really closely and you can see it.
While these are
by far, "naught" the best comet photos we've ever
definitely the best comet photos we've ever taken during