This is not a comet

waxing gibbous moon
Well, I mean, duryea! But I did not go out tonight with the intention of shooting the moon. I was out attempting to see and/or photograph comet C/2021 A1, otherwise known as Leonard (and somehow not “Al” as it seems to imply,) because it’s been visible along the horizon not long after sunset, and I finally got clear skies and a free schedule to get out and try. It was not the best of conditions no matter what; the comet was expected to hit magnitude 4-ish, but as a diffuse spot rather than a distinct point like a star, so easy enough to miss, but also too low on the horizon too soon after sunset, competing with the afterglow. And in my case, competing with the humidity on the horizon, visible as faintly colored bands at sunset. I didn’t see a damn thing, even with some long exposures to try and draw it out – some of the stars captured, around that magnitude, were diffuse themselves because of the humidity.

So while out there, I shot a few frames of the moon – and a few more, but only to try and lock in super-tight focus that I could then turn towards Venus and Jupiter, very visible themselves. Even with the 600mm lens and 2X converter, the planets (and any comet) are very small in the frame, so critically sharp focus is necessary, and the moon had enough brightness and detail to allow for an initial lock, and then several tweaks determined by chimping at the image in the viewfinder afterward, zoomed in significantly, to see what came up the sharpest. This technique isn’t perfect itself, as I noticed when I got back and unloaded the card, but it was the best method available.

So, we have another moon shot. Whoopee shit. I even tried for decent pics of Venus (showing a nice crescent right now) and Jupiter with the classic four moons, but nothing was sharp enough to really use. Another factor was in play, in that the air was pretty chilly by this time and it was cooling down the equipment, which in turn altered focus; I noticed this when I put down the meticulously-focused binoculars for a few minutes and found them out-of-focus when I picked them back up (and slightly damp from condensation.) Ideally, I should have let the equipment sit out for a solid half-hour or better to get close to ambient temperature, but I didn’t get down there soon enough to do this before Leonard dipped below the horizon.

For giggles, I took the same image above and boosted the contrast and saturation to enhance details, plus brought the color register closer to neutral. The moon still remains faintly yellowish even when high in the sky – humidity and smoke particles, I’m guessing. I even did a short video clip, but nothing additional was revealed by this, no birds or Batplanes or secret Nazi bases. Though I may have missed an excellent opportunity to frame an airliner against the moon, having looked up shortly after it passed and it seemed like it was right in line – dammit anyway. I’ve had that as a goal for years, though I’ve only specifically set out to capture it once; It’s harder than imagined.

Still the slow season, still haven’t received those airline tickets to someplace better. I say this only as a reminder, you know, just in case…

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