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Comets, Space Stations and the Milkyway

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Hi all

Been a while since I added to my blog. To be fair, not really had much to report! I have been out of furlough for over four weeks now, and with nearly 2000 of our Greene King pubs reopening in the space of a week recently, the last three weeks have been manic! We have a reduced team, but have all pulled together and got each site across the line! I would like to say things are slowing down a bit, but that just doesn't seem to be happening! But I'm not complaining - happy to be busy again!

All this work had meant I have not been out under the skies for some time now. Sure, the weather hasn't been very cooperative, but on the odd evening where the clouds have cleared, I have just wanted to go to bed! So, I made a conscious effort that this weekend would be different. I had been keeping an eye on Clear Outside all week, and Sunday looked like the best evening. I wanted to see the comet, so decided I would make a trip into the Peak District (I live in Derby), to find some darkness!

So, at around 10pm, with a still bright horizon, I hopped in the car and made my way to Thorpe Cloud near Ilam - an area a few miles North of Ashbourne. The car park I used to use when I came here to do some Landscape photography has now got a barrier across it, so I had to park about a mile away and walk back.  Note to self: Next time, pack a torch so I don't have to use phone!

Here is a light map of the area. Am surprised its Bortle 4 here - thought it darker than that:


The 30 minute walk across the side of Thorpe Cloud gave my eyes time to become dark adapted. On the way round, I saw a pass of the ISS. Was as high as I remember ever seeing it, and it was very bright. I checked this morning, and it was -3.4!! I took my time and drank in the Milkyway over head, with Cygnus buried deep in the star clouds. I came round the side of the Cloud and there it was! Nestled just above the horizon below the pan of Ursa Major! I needed averted vision to see it with my naked eye, but when I turned the 20x80's on it - WOW!!! The most amazing site. I have not seen a comet since Hale-Bopp, so this was a special moment for me. I spent a good half an hour on the bins, and then decided to try and take some photos.

I will freely admit that I am at the very start of my AP journey. I have a Canon 400D, and a fixed tripod for widefield, while my EQ3-2 is manual right now. Using the 500 rule theory, at 17mm on my 17-55mm f2.8, I worked out I could get 18 seconds exposures before trailing would be really evident. I opened the lens wide, set ISO to 800 to try and reduce noise and set the shutter at 15 seconds and started snapping away.

When the first preview appeared I was quite pleased - there was the comet as I had seen it through the bins:


Yeah, I didn't nail the focus. Difficult with nothing to actually focus on, and only a small (non-live view) screen to look at! However, if you squint a bit they look ok! The wider shots are better:





It was getting late, and I had to be up at 6am, so started to head back to the car. It was then the ISS came over for pass #2 of the evening. Very much the same brightness, and I followed it across the sky. I had put my camera away by this point, otherwise would have taken a long exposure of it going over.

Got back to the car, and headed home, getting in at about 2:15am, and went straight to bed. I intend to run these images through Photoshop this evening and try and pull put some more detail. I am also going to try and stack some of the images I took!

Thanks for reading all!


Snip 2.jpg

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