Winter has just begun and the days as well as nights are already annoyingly full of clouds or high layers of fog. So there is no way to see stars or planets for days or weeks. This situation is especially annoying, if there is a special celestial event like the greatest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in years. Jupiter and Saturn were a mere 6 arc-minutes apart from each other on December 21.
On December 26 I did not expect anything better when beeing out a bit. Though this evening, clouds opened up for a couple of minutes to show Jupiter and Saturn very low above the horizon. Jupiter and Saturn had a angular separation of 33.5 arc-minutes.
I had my smartphone and a 50mm pocket telescope with 15-45x magnification at hand. Not much for high-res images. Even worse, I did not have a tripod or anything else to stabilize the hand held setup. Though I could capture the moment. And judging the shaky hand-held setup (telescope in one hand, leaning against a wall, smartphone in the other), it is really beautiful! Fortunately, I captured a burst of 40 frames, so that I could reduce noise significantly (see the raw and processed image below). For this kind of setup I am really amazed, that the four big Jovian moons as well as a 7.78mag Star can be discerned (see labelled image)!
Acquisition details: Telescope: no-name 50mm, 15x-45x extendable pocket telescope Camera: Huawei P30 lite Location: Graz, Austria Time: 2020-12-26 16:12 UTC 40 frames (burst capture), manually aligned and stacked in Photoshop (neither PixInsight, Deep-Sky-Stacker nor AutoStakkert were able to align!)
Yesterday night, before going to bed, I took a brief look at the night sky. Fortunately, the forecast clouds did not yet appear. So I took my binoculars and went up to the top most window of my condo’s stair case, which is facing north. I could not spot the comet with my bare eyes. Though with binoculars, the comet was a pleasant sight, even though it was low in the suburban light polluted sky. At this moment, the comet was a mere 5.5 degrees above the horizon.
So I rushed back down the stairs and grabbed my camera and a tripod. I intentionally did not use one of my tracking mounts, as I expected the comet to reach the adjacent roof top within a short period of time. Within a few minutes I could capture a set of images to process. Here are the results, all captured with Sony A99-ii and 70-200mm/f2.8 tele lens at 200mm:
It is obvious that the 30x4s ISO1600 exposures are far better in noise than the 115×2.5s ISO12800 exposures. Apart from that (ignore the color cast and gradients, which result from bad calibration data), a lot of information may be pulled from the stacked images.
This years best view of a comet has finally been visible in my region. Weather conditions have been really favorable for a night time spectacle. Combined with the setting across my home town Graz, viewing from top of Plabutsch (located at the eastern edge of Graz) permitted the comet to rise exactly next to the 2 antennas on the mountain top of Schöckl in 14km distance.
See how remarkably bright the comet is in the wider angle image below. This image was taken with a mobile phone camera! And the comet is clearly visible!
The timelapse video shows the comet rising at 02:38 CEST until mid of nautic twilight at 03:54 CEST. See the amazing pattern of the noctilucent clouds going in waves!
Graz is a town, having still a city center with a lot of its original medieval flair. One of the best places to watch a sunset is on top of Schlossberg. There you may find Uhrturm (the clock tower). This landmark may be seen from most parts of the town. This is how it looks like:
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