Monday, 1 April 2013

Hunting Panstarrs - Part 2

Tonight marks my second attempt to get the Panstarrs comet during its travels across our night skies.

This is my second chance to catch a glimpse for this whole month since it's been possible to view and my first attempt was a complete fail.
I was not 100% confident but I had to try.
I went to the same location as before albeit a lot drier, significantly less windy and so not bitterly, bitterly cold.

About ten minutes after I reached my location and got my gear setup, I referred to a compass to locate the general direction required and my first sighting of it can be seen below(A bit out of focus).
Just on the edge of the left hand side.
I didn't notice it straight away, I'd moved the camera elsewhere and took other shots searching for it thinking the evening was going to be yet another fail or the sky wasn't dark enough... but when I reviewed the images more carefully I noticed just a little smudge(the screen on the back of the camera doesn't have the same resolution that your monitor does after all), I zoomed in on it and lo, there it was.
Once I realised where it was I set about shooting it properly... well as well as I could.
The above image is a pretty untouched version of the shot as it comes out of the camera. As you can see it's not huge in the frame of the lens I used, a 35mm, on a crop sensor, giving it an effective focal length of 50-55mm.
Which explains why I likely had such poor success on my previous trip where I tried to use my 11mm lens,(effective 16mm). The comet would have been rendered so tiny in the frame it must have been indistinguishable from other stars, certainly on further review of those previous shots I still can't find it, even using these shots as reference.
The above image is a stacked image using a program called Deep Sky Stacker. It helps reduce some of the noise, I'm still experimenting with it but it does help to get some clearer/sharper stars the only problem is it tends to tear everything else apart. Hence why the foreground/landscape/horizon is cropped out.
In retrospect, whilst I couldn't be happier that I managed to capture the comet during it's brief traversal past our night sky, after such a long wait with so much preparation and disappointment due to just a constant and never ending stream of clouds, I think the images are a bit dull.
They lack any sort of foreground aside from a dark horizon, I've tried to spice it up with a time-lapse and the shot above where I've stacked the images into a star trail composite but weather permitting, if I get time, I might try another trip to get a more interesting shot, for nowthough I'm quite happy.

The shots that created the composite above came to around 116 images over a 16 minute period.
Stacking them into a star-trail image is a bit of whimsy really as it mostly obscures the comet and doesn't add much to the composition. The true reason for taking the series of shots is to compile them into a video/animation, which helps bring things to life a little bit.
TBH these videos don't come out that well, the resolution defaults so low when embedded that the details are lost but if you wanted to go fullscreen with it and select HD you'll get to see the outcome.