Comet McNaught

Comet McNaught, 2006 P1

January 10th, 2007

Comet McNaught has been touted as the best comet in the last 30 years, but I would have to disagree.  While it did actually brighten to
about -1.5 magnitude and have a rather nice tail, other detractors made it a less than optimal comet. First, it's bright period was very short,
only about a week long. Second, it appeared in the dead of winter and in my area this meant one clear day during that week.  Third, it was
very close to the sun so observations were limited to twilight skies and all the problems inherent to twilight comets.

Nonetheless, on the afternoon of January 10th, 2007 it was predicted to be partly clear here in northern Ohio.  My wife and I got off work at 3pm,
rushed home and loaded up the truck and started heading south where the skies were supposed to be totally clear.  We quickly realized that afternoon
traffic was not going to allow us to get very far so we decided to head to the Wellington fairgrounds, which has a really nice south western horizon.

To our chagrin, we arrived to find a train stopped on the crossing, which is the only entrance to the fairgrounds. We rushed to the lower grounds
reservior, which is located another 10 minutes to the south.  We began setting up on the lake shore and were pleased to see that the clouds in the
southwest were rapidly dissipating.

While I set up our gear Dorothy took some shots of the lake and the setup.

Sunset was at about 5:15 and at about  5:34 Venus was readily apparent. I was getting nervous at this point and thinking that the comet was
already below the horizon.  I should be able to see a -1.5 object, I thought, but was having no luck. I was using my 7x50 multi-coated Celestron
binoculars and scanning back and forth across the horizon.  I stopped scanning for a moment so I could put my hands in my pockets. It was 27
degrees with a slight breeze making the wind chill temperature at somewhere around 20 degrees.

As I stood there warming my hands for a minute the comet just simply popped into view. There where nothing had been a moment before was
a stunning comet! The coma was very dense and pristine white. The tail extended about 2:00 and was several degrees long, widening as it left
the coma. The tail was also white. I saw no eveidence of an ion tail.

I shouted to Dorothy, "I got it! I got it!" then gave her the binoculars and  quickly showed her where it was.  I grabbed the Canon 30D and
fired off several shots  before moving the camera to prime focus on the scope.

As the comet sank into the western horizon it became redder in appearance. I shot  24 images at prime focus of my Meade 8" SCT. I watched the comet
sink down into a tree and then through a cloud bank. It emerged on the lower side of the cloud and then proceed into a another cloud just above the horizon.

When I got home and warmed up I used the 24 images shot through the scope to make the following animation.

January 17th, 2007

Wel, it's been a week now of cloudy days and nights here in Northern Ohio.
The Comet has made it's closest approach to the Sun and is now dimming.

Dave G and I agreed that the first clear afternoon we would try to capture the comet in daytime sky.

We met at Dave's Observatory at about 4:00pm and quickly setup.
We lined up our equipment to the south west and immediately captured the following image, which we
appropriately dubbed Comet Mc-Notttt.  :-) (I guess you had to be there!)

There sure were a lot of Comet McNotttt's this afternoon!

We scanned the skies for several minutes before sighting a dim fuzzy glow low in the trees southwest of the sun.
This shot will show the proximity of the sun and comet.

You can see the sun in the upper right corner and the comet is inside the large red circle. Look really closely and you can see it.

Here's a closeup.

While these are by far, "naught" the best comet photos we've ever taken,
they are definitely the best comet photos we've ever taken during daylight hours.