Comet Neowise is a photographer’s dream: tips for capturing it

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This NASA image of the Parker solar probe uses processed data to show the twin tails of Comet Neowise. NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Naval Research Lab / Parker Solar Probe / Guillermo Stenborg

NASA says Comet Neowise is the brightest a space ice ball to fly by Earth since at least 1997, and it is now performing in the evening sky, sending hopeful astrophotographers into the dark.

Many beautiful images of the comet appearing on the horizon just before sunrise or shortly after sunset have circulated online, although most people still needed binoculars to locate the space visitor. speeding. This leads to an obvious question: how the hell did they get these great photos?

Neowise on Cheyenne, Wyoming on July 12. Spaceweather.com/Jan Curtis

It takes a little planning and patience, but with the right equipment and a little cooperation with the weather, almost anyone can do it. Here are some basic tips to get you started.

Choose the right time and the right place

During the rest of its race, the comet Neowise will appear mainly in the northwest and west skies. See my previous post for more details on where to look for or use an online sky mapping tool like TheSkyLive.com for your time and location.

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Where to look for Neowise in July.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Once you know which direction to face, you will need to get as far away from light pollution as possible and make sure you have as clear and wide a view of the night sky as possible. Clouds and city lights can really ruin your astrophotography plans.

Some more intrepid photographers have taken mountain climbs late at night or early in the morning to get the best views possible, often with remarkable results. Just make sure you get ready and be safe if you want to ship it.

Take your equipment

As a comet travels at 17,500 miles per hour (28,159 kilometers per hour), it seems almost stationary from our point of view. This means that photographing Neowise is about precision and long exposures rather than all kinds of action shots. As such, you will need a sturdy tripod and a camera with a good telephoto zoom. You will need to be able to set the lens and camera to manual focus and exposure, as well as use a preset Bulb, Time, or Long Exposure mode to manage exposure. If you really want to go further, use a camera with a trigger cable, a self-timer, or some other remote control feature to avoid any shaking or blurring that might occur when you press the shutter button.

It doesn’t hurt to bring a wide angle lens too. A comet’s tail can occupy a large enough area that a zoom lens may not always be practical. Many have been able to capture particularly extraordinary images of Neowise and the Northern Lights.

“I was thrilled to see that my wide angle lens could capture the range of STEVE (an aurora-related phenomenon) in Neowise, and got about 10 photos,” said Manitoba photographer Donna Lach at NASA. “I watched the incredible dawn for about three hours, and sometimes it spanned over me. Sometimes Neowise was overtaken by the bright dawn, but she was visible all the time. “

Experience!

Once you find the right place, locate the comet and set up your equipment, the real work begins. First of all, abandon autofocus on your camera and play with different focal lengths, exposure times and image compositions. You may want to isolate the comet or capture it in the landscape.


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Tips for catching Comet Neowise with your camera

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When NASA’s Bill Dunford photographed the comet while it was visible to the naked eye before dawn, he found some great place to get the best pictures.

“I zoomed in on it and exposed each photo for about four seconds,” he explains in the video above.

Trust the treatment

We live in a photoshopped world, but with astrophotography, you can use image processing to make Neowise look more real as it appears in person.

This will again require some experimentation and good image editing software, but Dunford advises to play around to see if you can brighten the image and bring out the shine of the comet and reduce the noise. This is probably the way your brain has actually processed the image received from your retinas in real life.

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Neowise sur Washington, DC

NASA / Bill Ingalls

Share the wealth

Make sure to share everything you capture with the world. Some of us are setting a forecast of cloudy skies for the next week, although we live in the southwest desert. Please share your images with me on Twitter and Instagram @EricCMack.

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