Comet ISON Rising, 14 Nov. 2013

November 14th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

UPDATE (11/16/2013): I’ve replaced the video with one that pans and zooms…much better. (The video will keep looping after it loads):

This is my latest (and best) attempt at a time lapse video of Comet ISON, rising over a heavily forested area of northeast Alabama.

The video starts without tracking, so the stars are streaked. Then I turned on star tracking when the comet was approximately centered in the frame, and the frame of reference “launches” to keep up with the comet.

I was finally able to see the comet for the first time in my Canon 10×30 binoculars….I could barely make out the faint tail. But you need dark skies and know just where to look. To find it, I’m now using the iPhone app “Star Walk“, which is absolutely amazing.

This time I used my new Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens, stopped down to f/2.5, 30 sec exposures. This very fast lens is awesome…it seems to show more detail than my 200mm lens extended to 400mm with a 2x extender. The video is cropped to 120% of full pixel resolution, so the effective magnification is about 6x or 7x.

There is an interesting satellite which passes to the left of the comet, from top to bottom. It crosses the sky much slower than most satellites, suggesting a very high orbital altitude. Based upon the direction and the angular speed (the 30 sec satellite streaks are same length as the star streaks at the beginning of the video), it appears to be geostationary (wow! Imaging a geostationary satellite with a 85 mm lens!).

PLUS…if you look closely, in one frame a meteor streaks by the geostationary satellite!

UPDATE: It appears the geostationary satellite passing by ISON was either Intelsat 905 or 907, which passed by (as seen from from my location) close to 4:30 a.m. These satellites are near the Equator off the coast of Africa, around 25W longitude, at an altitude of ~22,000 miles.

UPDATE #2: The bright satellite that whizzed by ISON just before the geostationary satellite appears to be an Atlas 5 Centaur booster rocket from a March 10, 2007 DoD NEXTSat launch.

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