It has been fun watching the progress of Jupiter and Saturn over the recent months as they neared each other. I started photographing them November 8th. My camera memory setting opens with the same parameters each time for zoom, ISO, f-stop, shutter, etc. I put it on a tripod and got the images at about the same time on 11 dates as indicated in this image. Using Photoshop Elements, I overlaid the new images as layers on top. Saturn’s positions were aligned with a very faint straight line in the image. Jupiter was always placed in the same location for reference.
Have you been watching Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest evening skies soon after sunset? They are getting closer together. By late December they will be nearly in the same position in the sky. This composite image used 4 images I superimposed in the recent two weeks. The thin line shows how close their encounter will be. Keep watching the show.
Mark your calendar for these events in August. Brought to you by the folks at NASA and JPL. All events are free. No registration required.
Wear a mask and distance yourself if you are with a group.
Sunday evening 19 July 2020 the skies cleared providing another viewing opportunity for C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). We went just outside our garage door and looked northwest below the Big Dipper. A large River Birch tree shades us from the glare of the nearby streetlamp. We first looked at the comet through our 30x telescope.
I then set my digital camera on the tripod and zoomed all the way in for a photo. It was 9:53 pm local time. Several features are labeled in the resulting photograph. Comets have a core nucleus composed of rock, dust, water ice, and frozen carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and ammonia. Some describe them as freeze dried dirty snowballs. Their surface is littered with a thick layer of very dark material. The Sun heats this dark material and causes the ices to vaporize and escape into a cloud of gas around the core called a coma. The pressure of the solar wind forces the gas to stream away from the Sun producing the comet tail. It is very faint extending upward in this photograph. The Sun is out of view far below the bottom of this photo frame. Two reference stars were in view shining through the thin comet tail and coma.
We had very clear skies last night about 10 pm. We walked a few doors down our street carrying a small telescope, tripod, and our iPad. That placed us between two streetlights. Our street runs SE to NW. Looking SE, there were Jupiter and Saturn. A quick setup of the Astroscan scope gave us nice views.
Looking NW, we both easily spotted comet NEOWISE with our naked eyes. The telescope view on 30x was great. We set the iPad with the NightCap app on long exposure and zoomed in a little. Pretty good for an iPad, we thought.
High above was Ursa Major. We got a shot of it, too. Both images were merged into this wider view giving some perspective on where to look for the comet. In the next week, it will be below U Major and move a little up to the left each night. Click for a bigger view.