Comet Lovejoy in a Wide Field Astrophoto

Last Wednesday, when the thickest of clouds momentarily (30 minutes!) made way, I took my chance and photographed comet Lovejoy with a bare DSLR and zoomlens. Sadly, by the time I would have finished setting up a telescope, clouds would have been back, making the skies look like a white/orange blanket again. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to make a high detail photo of the comet and its tail of dust, but for now I’m really happy that I was able to take this picture of it.

A quick shot of comet Lovejoy with zoomlens at 30mm and ISO 6400

A quick shot of comet Lovejoy with zoomlens at 30mm and ISO 6400

The image shows a rather wide star field just above and to the right of the Orion constellation. The constellation in this photo is called Taurus and is recognizable by the distinct V-formation of the brightest stars (here oriented as  > ). Apart form the bright orange star (Aldebaran), all the stars that make up the V are part of the Hyades cluster and were “born” around the same time. The little bunch of stars in the top are the Pleiades or M45, which I have shown you before in greater detail.

But what the photo really is about, is the bright green-ish comet Lovejoy in the right of the image. Very faintly, a hint of the tail is visible on the left of the comets nucleus. This tail consists mainly of ionized carbonmonoxide and is over 5 million kilometers long. The green color of the nucleus itself comes from diatomic carbon that reflects the sunlight.

Given that I took this picture on a very windy evening, with my camera on a not-so-sturdy mount that was hanging on my window frame, I was quite surprised with this decent result. 🙂