Updated December 6th 2013
Here's another image taken from Glenshane Pass during the early hours of December 4th when comet C/2013 Lovejoy was rising above the trees on a night of exceptional clarity. With the naked eye, while using averted vision, the tail was 5 degrees long, however with the light gathering ability of the fast 50mm F/1.8 lens I was able to detect much more tail. In fact, after studying the high resolution file and comparing it with a detailed star atlas I was able to measure the long straight gas tail at 10 degrees in length!, that's the same as 20 apparent full moon diameters or your fist held against the sky at arm's length which is rather impressive for a comet that was never expected to put on such a fine show. In fact, Lovejoy is a beautiful comet, it's naked eye, it's now circumpolar hence visible both in the evening and morning and shows up well on camera. As a matter of fact I suspect the tail may be even longer so it will make for a nice challenge to see how much tail you can detect visually and on camera. The moon will begin to interfere with evening observations however the hours before dawn are still perfect for catching this visitor in the act. On the evening of the 5th I observed it from my back garden with an 8" S.Cass telescope while the comet was above my roof and I was delighted by the telescopic appearance, the coma was large with bright white condensation and surrounded by an oval green outer coma or hood with numerous streamers streaking into the gas tail, it looks like a miniature version of great comet Hyakutake in 1996. Catch it now while you still can. Many thanks to Terry Lovejoy for the discovery and for providing us with a happy comet to enjoy to replace the loss of ISON. Skyhound Finder Chart.
My intention was to head out around 01.00 and catch comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy rising then spend a couple of hours observing and photographing the comet getting higher in the sky. I lay on bed reading a good book but was feeling a little under the weather so I passed out to sleep like a light, next thing I know I was suddenly awake in the same position I had fallen asleep and the book still on my chest with the same page unturned. I checked my mobile, it was 02.55 so I opened my window wide and looked out into the chilly night air, the sky was completely clear so I looked low in the N to the position where Lovejoy would be visible. Despite not being full dark adapted, and with a muddy mind while looking across numerous streetlights I was astonished when my sleepy brain went into automatic alert informing me that there was something different in the sky, yes there was no question about it, Bootes the Herdsman didn't look rite, it had an extra star which shouldn't have been there and that star was fuzzy, it was the comet!. I was rather shocked and impressed by how vivid it looked, my mind was sharpened in an instant and I got prepared quickly for a shoot.
Due to the impressive visual scene the matter required more urgency and effort so I abandoned my original plan of observing it from near home and instead drove up the mountain onto Glenshane Pass. I pulled over onto the shoulder 3/4 way up as I couldn't wait any longer and got out under the night sky. I was sandwiched between rows of trees lining each side of the road, and all around was an ocean of stars. This was the best sky I had seen in months after the passage of an earlier frontal system and now cold air had blown through cleaning the atmosphere out, it looked seriously transparent and the stars seemed brighter compared to when I had seen them before, I was lucky to have been treated to such amazing conditions. With the naked eye I located Lovejoy with ease between Bootes and Hercules which was climbing higher into the N with each passing minute and with averted vision I spotted 5 degrees of gas tail without any optical aid at all and the tail filled more than two fields as seen through my 10x25mm binos. I spent the early hours taking many images of the comet with the 50mm F/1.8 lens and because the comet was in the N I could get away with longer exposures than I normally could do.
The trees made for a nice foreground subject, long exposures in the 30-35 sec range could be carried out on a static tripod with only a little trailing which was fantastic for catching that beautiful tail all thanks to the comet's proximity to the pole where the stars exhibit less sidereal motion compared to other areas on the celestial equator for example.
The images revealed a long straight gas tail over 7 degrees long, that's the same as 14 apparent full moon diameters or slightly less than the length of your fist held at arm's length which is very impressive for a comet which was never meant to be this bright or have a conspicuous tail like this.
What a beautiful surprise comet, ISON had let us all down however this little comet seemed to be calling out saying ''look at me'' and this time it deserved the attention, perhaps it was nature's way of saying don't give up on comets so soon as there could be one of Lovejoy's bigger brothers inbound in the near future. The coma was vivid green and in the mag +4.0 to +4.5 range and very easy to find in a dark sky. To add the show were a wonderful selection of brilliant Geminid meteors which blazed through the atmosphere near the comet.
Behind me the sky looked like something from a Christmas nativity scene, Orion seemed to sparkle with diamonds in the frigid clean air and looked very festive above the pine trees. This short 50mm F/1.8 exposure is a testament to the quality of the sky. On view are Orion's Belt, Sword, Orion Nebula (M42), Flame Nebula and the Horse Head Nebula's associated emission region among other gems. What a great session, I made it back home for 04.15. Lovejoy rises during the early morning hours however is best placed before dawn in the N/NE so make sure to catch it now before the moon begins to interfere late next week. Check out the heavensabove finder chart as well as Seiichi Yoshida's wide field chart, happy hunting.
(Above) Venus & waxing moon positions from Sky & Telescope.
If you are fortunate enough to have a crisp clear Winters evening then pay close attention to the SW after sunset and be prepared to be amazed at the brilliant unwinking star visible above the horizon. This is planet Venus which is currently showing off in it's best apparition of the year. The planet looks like a bright star at magnitude -4.9 (bright enough to be visible in daylight) and one would be forgiven for thinking it looks like a celestial diamond or perhaps - if you are putting up your decorations - the Christmas star. You won't need any help to see it because if the sky is clear the planet will dominate the sky and likely has already caught your attention while out walking or driving on the road. The planet will be visible every evening for the next few weeks and will most certainly make the night sky very festive indeed. Venus can be spotted at dusk however since it is far from the sun it will not set for at least 1.5 hours after sunset so you can observe and photograph it against a dark sky background. Own a camera?, then think photo opportunities. Point a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope at Venus and you will see that then planet is a crescent phase which is rather spectacular to see. From December 4th onwards the waxing crescent moon joins the scene making for a stunning grouping after dark. What makes this sight so beautiful is that you don't need any optical aid - simply look up and enjoy the show!.
Stunning all night photo shoot on Glenshane Pass and Benbradagh mountain in Dungiven on November 18th/19th 2013 where Paul Martin and I spent over 9 hours photographing moonlit snow and stars during the first taste of Winter when a brief Arctic blast brought the first high level snow of the season to N. Ireland. Visually it was an epic night standing under the stars in a -8 degree C wind chill with constant snow showers, convection, and even rare thundersnow while the white mountain landscape glowed like Narnia under the surreal moonlight. One page report with 20 images. - REPORT.
Looking for an unique Christmas gift for that special person in your life?, or perhaps for yourself?, I currently sell top quality photo prints for a very respectable price featuring many of the imagery on Nightskyhunter, everything from the northern lights, snow scenes, comets, noctilucent clouds, sunsets to thunderstorms, funnel clouds and moonbows. Simply email me and let me know which image you wish to purchase and we can take it from there. I accept payment via paypal, bank transfer, cheque and other means.
A4 print = £25.00
A3 print = £35.00
A2 Print = £45.00
Large format A1 and A0 prints also available, just email me for a price quote. All prices include postage within the UK. If you are from overseas simply cover my shipping costs and I can get you sorted no problem. Prints are done on beautiful glacier print paper with enough edge room for fitting a mount and frame. I can sign the prints too if you wish.
A0 Canvas = £200.00 excluding delivery.
A2 Canvas = £110.00 excluding postage costs. Other sizes can be ordered and local deliveries or collections can be done no problem. Check out the various galleries...
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) Gallery
Thunderstorms, Funnel Clouds, Night Weather & Snow scenes Reports
Noctilucent Clouds Galleries
Night Landscape Gallery
Thrilling aurora shoot at the north coast of N. Ireland on Halloween Eve 2013 when a CME associated with an M-class solar flare hit Earth's magnetic field a glancing blow increasing geomagnetic activity. However once the IMF tilted south a major aurora outburst unfolded across the ocean horizon which last for 15-20 min's, the outburst was over 40 degrees high and exhibited remarkable ray activity which I observed with Paul Martin and another photographer. I photographed the stunning visual apparition over the famous Mussenden Temple above Downhill Beach. This outburst made up for the entire year making for an unforgettable Halloween experience. One page report with 5 images & 1 video blog. - REPORT.
Just an update to let you know that I am still working on my big stock/print sales gallery which features a selection of specific galleries which can be accessed from a single page which will feature all my best work. This gallery is hand designed by myself with the purpose of showcasing my images for fun or for those wishing to chose a scene to get on print or canvas. I have still much work to do here however I am constantly adding to it while I can. That being said I have added new images to the night landscape gallery, shelf cloud gallery, thunderstorm gallery, day & night optics gallery, gorse fire gallery & night storms gallery, planet conjunction gallery, night snow and thundersnow gallery etc...
It will be next year before this is completed however when it is finished it should be an excellent resource. When you click on the thumbnail it will open the 980 pixel wide image with a description I wrote below the image with a link to the detailed report for that day with options to email me if interested in a print. Thanks very much for your patience.
N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports
Astronomy is not the only subject I am interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds and aurora displays.