Comet PanSTARRS

Imaging PanSTARRS has proven to be difficult for me. I was out three nights in a row in the attempt. We finally had a break in the weather here and I wanted to see if I could get a decent image.

PanSTARRS over Alaska
PanSTARRS over Alaska

The first night I shot in aperture priority as I do with Aurora. I used two full frame cameras that have a high ISO range. Set up one was a Nikon D700 coupled to a Noct-Nikkor 58mm ƒ/1.2 manual focus lens. Set up two was a Nikon D3s coupled to a Nikkor 500mm ƒ/4 P ED IF manual focus lens. Both rigs were on tripods with a cable release.

I did get some nice sunset images with the Noct.

Sunset over the Inlet
Sunset over the Inlet

A bit after sunset, we spotted what we believe was the comet. But the images were not conclusive as they lacked sufficient sharpness and resolution.

Is it or is it not?
Is it or is it not?

On the next night, we shot several frames of what we believed to be the comet only to decide after much reflection that we were looking at a stray wisp of cloud or contrail. Based on the previous night, I changed the equipment to a D3s with the AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6D ED and a D300 (crop sensor) paired with the Nikkor 500mm ƒ/4 P ED IF and 1.4x Kenko TelePlus to give me an effective focal length of just over 1000mm. I wanted to catch the comet as large in the frame as I could. I also switched from aperture priority to shutter priority.

A fake comet
A fake comet

But I did get a nice sliver of the Moon.

About as new a Moon as you can get.
About as new a Moon as you can get.

Determined to get a halfway decent image, I was back out last night 3-13-13 while the clear skies held. There was a bit of a wind blowing sending the windchill down to the basement but I remained as long as I needed. I used the same setups as the previous night but in manual mode. I was never able to see the comet by eye or through the lens. It was only after I uploaded the images and opened them on the 27 inch screen that I was able to find it. It never showed in any of the long lens images only the 300mm

That image is definitely PanSTARRS and while not as good as I had hoped, it was not bad for a first try at a comet. Come on ISON !!

PanSTARRS over Alaska
PanSTARRS over Alaska

2 thoughts on “Comet PanSTARRS”

  1. We determined that the first / last image was definitely PanSTARRS, but the others were a strange atmospheric phenomena.

  2. It looks like it could be a comet. Some time back around then UAF’s shot a rocket up that did a fuel dump in the way upper atmosphere that was observed from Russia to Canada cause it was so hi and the right time to still catch sun too.

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