How to image comet Lovejoy with a DSLR camera

CometLovejoyDec12,2015_C2014 Q2
C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy imaged on January 12, 2014 from Cavite, Philippines, using a Canon 450D DSLR and an f/1.8, 50 mm lens. The photo was a stack of 10 images, with each one exposed for 6 seconds at ISO 1600, processed using Deep-Sky Stacker. Photo Credit: Anthony Urbano. For other images of comets, click here.

Here are simple steps to image comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2 ) using an entry-level DSLR camera:

1. At around 7 pm to about 1 am tonight (your local time), look at the sky and try to match the patterns in this finder chart (from Sky and Telescope) with the actual stars in the sky. You should be able to spot Orion (a prominent constellation) and then estimate the general location of the comet.
2. Mount the camera on a tripod.
3. Focus the camera lens at the stars by pointing it at any bright star and then adjust the focus manually by rotating the focus ring.
4. Point the camera to the general direction of the comet.
5. Set the camera to manual shooting (M) mode.
6. Set the ISO to highest value (ISO 1600 is recommended).
7. Set the aperture to its widest setting (e.g., f/1.8 is preferred instead of f/8).
8. Experiment with various exposure time. Try 1 or 2 seconds exposure and then adjust accordingly. In my 50 mm f/1.8 lens, I used 6 seconds exposure. The exposure time must be long enough so that the image of the comet would register, but not too long so as to avoid over-exposure and star trailing.
9. Once ready, take a photo using the camera’s remote shutter or time-delay function to minimize vibrations.
10. Check your images for any hint of the comet. It should show up as a fuzzy green patch in your photos. Adjust framing as necessary.

The comet will show up nicely in photos and may also be bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, especially if viewed from the province. To see the comet visually from a city, you need at least a decent pair of binoculars. For queries, kindly leave a comment.

For featured photos, click here.
For tutorials on how to get started with astrophotography, click here.
For DIY astronomy projects useful for astrophotography, click here.
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© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)


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