This is not a comet

Orion's dagger with telephoto lens
It’s probably not too far from what I would have captured if I tried, admittedly, and the intention was to try, just a little later on. This came Friday night, when I stepped out to check conditions and decided to shoot the first-quarter (“half”) moon real quick. This is not the first-quarter moon either, but the [ahem] ‘dagger’ in Orion, those “three” stars that can be made out below the belt, spanning the entire frame here.

You may well know that comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is becoming more visible by the day, er, night, and it’s a good target to try amateur astrophotography with – with a telescope. Not so much with a telephoto lens, and this shows us why. This was a one-second exposure at ISO 6400, f5.6, 350mm with the 2x converter. I probably should have left the teleconverter off and just gone with 600mm, but I was doing detailed photos of the moon and the converter helped there, then I re-aimed towards Orion to see what I could achieve, and had to zoom back out a little to get all of Orion’s Shame in view. Even at 1-second, the movement is blurring the stars a little, though granted, Orion on the plane of the ecliptic is moving a lot more than the comet, pretty close to Polaris, would have been. Still, to get a really nice shot, I would have had to use a much longer shutter speed, and so tracking the motion of the Earth would have been much better. While out there, I took a quick look for the comet, though the real session would have come later on after I traveled to a much-darker sky location; basically, I might have found it, but the distinctive coma wasn’t at all visible, so I knew a long exposure would be necessary.

That’s a story in itself. I have a mildly-capable reflecting telescope, with a tracking motor, but I suspect the camera rig on the eyepiece would be too much weight for the motor, so I’ve been trying to get a modified webcam to work with it. I mentioned before about the software woes, and just tried again tonight to go a different route, with absolutely no results at all. The saga of these endeavors is getting pretty damn long, but as yet, I’m unwilling to drop the money on one of the ‘proper’ eyepiece cameras, which start at $150 and work up through at least ten times that amount; I can’t justify that without much better skies here. I have an inexpensive one already, and initial tests of that were not impressive at all. Which is not to say the webcam route will be better, but at least I know the sensor in that is reasonably sharp and color-neutral.

So, will I ever get an image of the comet? I wouldn’t count on it, but I haven’t given up yet. Meanwhile, I have to note that as I stepped out and hadn’t even gotten to a view of the northern sky yet, a lovely long-tailed meteor crossed half of the sky, heading close to due north, and lasting almost two seconds – exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been trying to capture on film/sensor for years now. Dammitall.