Shooting Comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise)

This will be a very busy night for me. First off I’ll be imaging a number of things; Oiii data on NGC 6888, and on the same rig (the kids portable setup), I’ve underslung the modded 450D to the front of the dovetail so that Sam can get some widefield (18mm) on Cygnus, and hopefully capture the Great Rift. Then, later on I’ll be trying to capture at least one of two recently discovered supernovae, before finally moving on to C/2020 F3.

Because we’re still in the depths of summer, time is going to be extremely limited with the short nights. We’ve had a plethora of naff weather the past few weeks, and I’m becoming antsy at constantly looking at the underside of typical UK cloud cover! Looking at the current forecast, this may well be the only clear night for some time. How envious I am of those with clearer skies for decent periods of time!

My plan for this target will be to capture it using Miranda and the ASI178MC (uncooled) with short 15 second exposures. It’s near naked-eye visible right now, so I’m not anticipating any issues with the short subs, and it’s exactly the sort of exposure that this camera is designed for. The only thing I’ll need to swap out is the Oiii filter for the CLS one. The RA and DEC coordinates I’ll get whilst I’m out that evening.

That Night….

Things didn’t start out too well…

In what can best be described as typically British style, despite the forecast, things didn’t start out too well. Although it was lovely and clear when I dragged the kit out, more or less as soon as I got polar aligned, clouds rolled in. We’ve all been there at various points so you know that heart-dropping feeling at seeing these fluffy things float aimlessly by when you’re trying to capture the universe beyond our own planet. Thankfully they only lasted half an hour, but then I hit a second issue.

Even though I was using the Star Adventurer, I still use APT to plate solve and get on target. Tonight it decided it was going to randomly not solve, so a thing that should’ve taken no more than ten minutes, ended up taking an hour, eating into valuable imaging time at a time of year when almost every minute counts. In the end though, it all worked out and I was on NGC 6888 and also shooting widefield with the 450D. Can I just say thanks as well to the guys at London Camera Exchange in Gloucester for giving the sensor a thorough cleaning (again.) Looking at the individual subs on the widefield it looks like you nailed it and dust was minimal.

But NGC 6888 and widefield on Cygnus were fillers on this night. My goal was comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) which put in an appearance around half two. And what a sight!! My first ever naked eye comet was spectacular. And I got to share it with Sam as well, who was suitably impressed. Naked eye comets are a rare event. In fact I think the last one was back in the mid-90’s with Comet Hale-Bopp, which I missed at the time. So to see this one now was pretty amazing.

Once on target (it spent a lot of time hidden behind a tree), I started shooting at 55mm with the 450D and also with Miranda and the ASI178MC (uncooled.) Naked eye was amazing, but I wasn’t prepared for how absolutely breathtaking it would be in the cameras.

At 55mm it was mind-blowing. With Miranda and the ASI178MC, I think I might’ve pee’d a little!! No words can describe it, so I’m not going to even attempt to. Instead, I’ll let the images do the talking instead. What I will say though is what initially started out as almost a disaster, ended up turning into one of the best night’s imaging I’ve ever got out to do. And not just imaging, the sky itself was just playing ball. Not only was I imaging multiple targets with the same rig (a succesfull first for me), but a bright comet, noctilucent clouds AND an ISS pass just to round the end of the night off, a lot of which I was lucky enough to share with one of my astroheart’s, Sam. THIS is why I do what I do. Because despite all the equipment issues, nature issues, when it goes right, it REALLY goes right. And tonight it went as right as it gets!

Would love to see everyone else’s images of NeoWise, so please feel free to comment on here or on Facebook. If you haven’t had chance to see it yet, it’ll be around for a bit longer yet so hopefully you’ll get chance. If not, you’ll need to wait around for about another 6,000 odd years!

For now, keep your heads and scopes up, and clear skies!

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