Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 in 2006

May 7, 2006

On the evening of May 8, this disintegrating comet passed over the Ring Nebula in Lyra. The conjunction happened too low to be visible from here, but by 11pm it had risen high enough in the east to be photographed. When I first read of this, it wasn't made clear that the conjunction was on May 8 UT, and I thought the event was Monday night. This weekend was the Wildflower Triathlon, and I'd driven myself and Rick Ferrell to the race, which was Sunday May 7. I got home, pretty tired, and after dinner climbed into bed at 10pm and turned on my computer to check email. And, there in my box was Chris Kitting's note, proposing to meet at Oak Ridge for astrophotography that night. I wrote back right away that the event was not tonight but tomorrow night.... and then starting having doubts, and double checked and found that no, it was happening NOW. Gah! Well, I had been looking forward to this very special event, and the weather was clear and I had to go for it. So, I climbed out of bed, got dressed, drove to Cabrillo and got the Megrez refractor and the rest of the gear, and then drove up to the upper meadow at Gray Whale Ranch and Empire Grade Rd. The long winter of rain had seeped into the ST2000xcm and cooling the camera initially produced frost which marred the first 3 images, but I persisted and got 4 more 5-minute shots. The comet is moving quite fast here, so even a single 5 minute shot shows a long trail for the nucleus.

Single 5-min shot, ST2000xcm w/ Megrez 2000xcm w/ DDP single-shot color processing in CCDOPS v5

Same, but a stack of 5x5min images. The comet nucleus is strongly trailed