Comet C/2015 01 PANSTARRS - Magnitude 14.87

Submitted by jimwcoleman

It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk out into my backyard and within five minutes, start taking a picture of a faint something that is more than half a BILLION kilometers away from me and is moving at 37.3 kilometers per second. This faint, fuzzy thing is comet C/2015 01 PANSTARRS. At its current magnitude, 14.87, it is about as faint at Pluto, but even more difficult to image. The comet is currently in the constellation Hercules, high overhead at sunset this time of year.

In this photo, I have highlighted the comet and included a negative inset, which often makes it easier to see. The comet is really a fuzzy point of light; it appears to be a faint, fuzzy line in this photo as this photo is really a "stack" of 38 one-second exposures. When stacked, the images are aligned on the stars, so anything moving will form a line along its trajectory path.

Over the years, I have come to specialize in comet photography. They are difficult objects to capture and I'm particularly glad to have been able to get this one. 

For those who like the details, this photo was taken with a pier-mounted 8" Meade LX200 (Milburn wedge) with a Canon 60D at prime focus (ISO 1600). The telescope was collimated immediately before the photo was taken and focus was achieved using a Bahtinov mask. The image is a stack of 38 60-sec. subs, guided with an Orion ST80 using PHD2. The photos were stacked with Maxim DSLR and processed with Paint Shop Pro X6.

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