Comet ISON time lapse – my first attempt

November 2nd, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I’ve been curious whether I could pull off a time lapse video of Comet ISON using relatively modest camera equipment and a telephoto lens. Professional photographer Justin Ng used a 20 inch (!) telescope and a monochrome CCD camera to do the same thing several days ago. I told him about attempting it with a 400 mm lens and camera and he was (justifiably) skeptical, but wished me luck.

My first attempt was this morning, and the results seem good enough to try again in a couple days at a dark sky location. Despite moderate city light pollution and some clouds, I captured the green glow of Comet ISON in 52 frames (try the “full screen” icon):

Comet ISON time lapse – first attempt from Roy Spencer on Vimeo.

I had difficulty finding the comet at first…I forgot my binoculars and had to guess where it was based upon online tracking maps…it’s currently near the back “foot” of Leo. I doubt I would have seen it in the binoculars anyway because it is still so faint.

I’m also using an AstroTrac for the first time, which allows you to track the stars with a camera tripod. My polar alignment wasn’t the best, so the stars are still moving across the camera’s field of view, but it was good enough to keep the stars from trailing in the individual 60 sec exposures.

For reference, here’s Justin Ng’s time lapse using that humongous telescope and B&W CCD camera:

Journey of Comet ISON on 27 October 2013 from Justin Ng Photo on Vimeo.

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