View Full Version : C/2011 W3 Comet Lovejoy from Canberra

2011-Dec-23, 07:57 PM
C/2011 W3 Comet Lovejoy

Clouds from horizon to horizon has been the name of the game here for nearly every celestial event!

I got up on Thursday night/Friday morning at 3am, checked the sky and it was a black blanket of cloud. I observed for around 20 minutes while simultaneously checking the Bureau of Meteorology to confirm that the clouds weren't going anywhere. Back to bed to grind my teeth and grumble something about Murphy's law.

This morning, I stayed up until 1:30am, had a little snooze on the couch and checked the night sky every half hour. At 2:30am the sky turned crystal clear! I loaded everything in the ute and took off like a bull at a gate for the mountains south-west of Canberra and away from the city light.

And there it was! Comet Lovejoy in all it's glory, lighting up the heavens like a searchlight, signalling passing spacecraft.






2011-Dec-23, 09:00 PM
Woo-hoo! Those are great, especially with the rich starfield background as Lovejoy moves away from the Sun. Do I see just a hint of tail-light reflected in foreground water on the bottom image?

(hemispheric envy)

2011-Dec-23, 10:34 PM
Thanks mate. Ye, I was trying to get the reflection but unfortunately it was a bit windy across the water, rippling it and breaking up the smooth surface.


2011-Dec-23, 10:46 PM
Nice series.

Looks a lot like a smaller version of Ikea Seki 1965 did up here.

Back then there was no internet of course so what info we had was from magazines. We watched it go into the sun as a very faint hard to see comet with little tail. We expected it to come out much he same. We gathered for an all night vigil on our hill top far from town. A couple hours before it was to rise we saw an odd rising of the zodiacal light. Wrong place and wrong angle but what else could it be? Took over an hour for us to realize the real zodiacal light was faintly visible where it belonged. What the heck were we seeing? Eventually one member suggested it was Ikeya Seki. He was rudely told he was suffering from sleep deprivation. Finally we realize it really was the comet. Itty bitty head on a huge 30+ degree tail.

It didn't rise as vertically as Lovejoy is for you however. Tilted more to the south. No one expected this so no one had a camera. After that a few days of clouds but finally I got a shot of it. Soon thereafter the head fell apart and vanished. That left a headless tail. We called it the reverse Cheshire Cat as it vanished leaving only a tail. Since it wasn't photogenic and I needed sleep for work I never thought to photograph it as the tail shortened and faded. Wish now I had. Image below is with a 35mm lens but cropped some. Bright line is Echo II a 120 foot diameter aluminized mylar balloon satellite. No Magellanic Clouds however.


2011-Dec-23, 10:54 PM
Great images! I envy you "southerners"; I had no idea until yesterday's crop of pictures how spectacular this bad boy really is. I, too, was immediately reminded of the classic images of Ikeya-Seki.