Reddit AMA Today & Comet Hunting
I have an Ask Me Anything (AMA) at Reddit today. The AMA post went up a half hour ago, and there’s already a question asking about why I changed my mind about Reddit. Which I pretty much expected, though I didn’t know it would be the very first question, or that it would pop up so quickly.
I talked about this back in September. I’m sure there will be more questions and conversation about it tonight at the AMA. I hope it won’t be the only thing people ask and talk about, but we’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, please feel free to stop by and ask whatever you’d like.
A few weeks back, The Mary Sue posted about Comet Lovejoy coming closest to Earth on January 7. Given Michigan weather, I figured the skies would probably be overcast, but lo and behold, yesterday was actually pretty clear.
It was also about 2 degrees Fahrenheit…before you factor in the windchill.
I bundled up and dragged out the telescope. This proved to be an hour of failure and futility. My spotting scope’s battery had died, and the scope’s lens was messed up, making it useless. There’s also enough light pollution in my neighborhood that there was no way for me to see the comet so I knew where to aim the thing. I had pulled the star charts and had an approximate idea where Lovejoy should be hiding, but I never managed to find it with the scope.
So after going inside to thaw out, I switched to Plan B. I brought out the digital camera, which has a much wider field than the telescope. I set up the tripod, aimed the camera at the patch of sky where I thought Lovejoy should be, and snapped a long-exposure shot.
It wasn’t spectacular, but there was a distinct green dot among the stars. I zoomed in, adjusted shutter speed and ISO, and eventually managed to get a decent photo. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as the professional comet pics, but it’s the first time I’ve ever managed to photograph one.
Comet Lovejoy is the green dot just above and to the right of the center. To be honest, I wasn’t even 100% sure it was the comet at first, but after talking to others on Twitter and Facebook last night and getting confirmation from at least one astronomer, as well as comparing my photo to better ones, I think it’s safe to say I have officially shot my first comet.
I may have also frostbitten my brain in the process, but ah well.
Sky and Telescope has some much cooler pictures, as well as information on how to spot the comet yourself, if you’re so inclined.
January 8, 2015 @ 3:25 pm
Nice comet photo!
For finding celestial objects, we like to use Star Walk. Don’t know if you have any smartphones or tablets, but we use it on our iPad, where between GPS, accelerometers, etc. it does a decent job of showing what’s in the sky in real time. (I’m sure there are other similar apps, that’s just the one we have.)
Even though it’s not real useful in the grand scheme of things it was one of the first iPad apps that gave me that “living in the future” feeling. Just wave it around the sky and it shows all the planets, stars, galaxies, satellites, ISS, etc. in that spot. We use it often on vacation to identify satellites flying over. It’s a fun little reminder when pointing it down that there’s a whole sky beneath our feet, too.
Jim C. Hines
January 8, 2015 @ 3:33 pm
I’ve got a similar app, and was able to use it to match up the constellations and figure out roughly where the comet should be. But I couldn’t pinpoint the darn thing, and I couldn’t eyeball the telescope’s alignment to make sure it was pointing exactly where I wanted it to point.