Astrophotography – Saturn and the Comet Lulin, February 24, 2009

Most people are unaware, but there’s a comet in our neighborhood. Comet Lulin made its closest approach to Earth yesterday, February 24, 2009. While only viewable unaided in very dark skies, it was (and still is) viewable with binoculars.

The wife and I decided to head out into the Texas Hill Country to see if we could find it, and maybe grab a picture or two. We went west on RR1431 until we found a spot off the road about ten miles east of Marble Falls, Texas.

I don’t yet have an actual telescope in my astrophotography collection, so all images were taken with Nikon compatible lenses. The first was taken with the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, while the second was taken with the Sigma 50-500mm f/5.6 (my longest lens currently). The third is actually a digital crop of the second.

(Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.)

In the first picture, Saturn is the white dot at about 11:30 from the telephone pole and about a third of the way down from the top of the picture. Lulin is the blueish-green dot at 2:00 to Saturn. The orientation is the same on the two closer pictures.

My astrophotography is getting better with practice, but I still prefer the landscapes to the close ups. Some of that is a limitation of my equipment, but I’m also not very good at getting crisp exposures on the closer pictures.

After shooting Saturn and Lulin, I turned about ninety degrees counter clockwise and got this picture of the Big Dipper (using the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8).

I tried to take some pictures with the Coolpix P80, but the skies were dark enough out there that I couldn’t see anything on the viewfinder. Pictures would expose decently, but you were shooting blind.

Technical Notes: All pictures taken with my Nikon D200 with long exposure noise reduction on. Tripod mounted with cable release. Lenses designated above.

5 Comments on “Astrophotography – Saturn and the Comet Lulin, February 24, 2009

  1. Dustin D. Trammell

    Jupiter? Don’t you mean Saturn? Everything I’ve read places Lulin currently upper right of Saturn and below Regulus (the base star of the Sickle (or Leo’s Mane)).

  2. Brian Combs

    Thanks go to Dustin for pointing out that I typed Jupiter when I of course meant Saturn. Oy. That’s what I get for trying to do other things while I’m blogging.

  3. Rick B

    Keep up the good work Brian, and tell me when you get that telescope with a motorized equatorial mount. We’ll go see if we can get harassed by the police again!

  4. Brian Combs

    Heh. We’ll see if I can get that one past the CFO, I mean, wife.

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