Friday, 28 of November of 2014

Photographing Comet ISON

Photographing Comet ISON

If you’ve been waiting to get a great photo for the capstone of 2013, then your wait may be nearing its end. The comet ISON has begun its approach to the sun and will soon be headed back out to the edge of the solar system, not to be seen again for many, many years. Tomorrow, November 28th, the comet will make its closest approach to the sun and then will head back out as if shot out of a massive slingshot. If the comet survives its brush with the star, then in early December, it will be close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye.

If you missed seeing Haley’s comet back in 1986 (next pass some time in 2061) and the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997 (next pass expected in 4380), then you’ll want to see comet ISON.

Comets are not uncommon sights, I know, but they are rare enough when compared to the annual meteor showers Earth gets to see (the Leonids and the Perseids) so you’ll want to do something to preserve your memory of seeing ISON make its first pass through the inner Solar System and survive. If you have a DSLR, then you should be able to get a photo of ISON that will stand the test of time. And, the good people over at Space.com have some very great tips on how to capture a photo of a comet. Some of the most important are below:

  • Boost your camera’s sensitivity to ISO 800, or higher. You would want to keep your exposures relatively short, especially if you are using your DSLR on a plain, fixed tripod. This will not only prevent the images of the comet and background stars from trailing due to Earth’s rotation, but it will also keep the brightening dawn sky from washing out the scene.
  • Don’t forget to “bracket” your exposures — that is, take a series of shots of the comet at various shutter speeds and/or apertures. This will increase your chances of getting the correct exposure.
  • Switch your camera mode from Auto (A) to Manual (M) so you’ll be able to control its focus as well as lens aperture, shutter speed and white-balance settings. Set the camera to its highest resolution (RAW mode) so you can capture as much fine details and color information as possible. Consult your camera manual on how to change settings.

If you manage to get some footage of this comet, we’d love to see it. Feel free to share it with us over at Facebook or here on our blog! Until then, we’ll be keeping an eye on the sky for the chance to see this once-in-a-lifetime comet passage.

— da Bird