Friday, 29 November 2013

Is ISON Saying "“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”?

Even while the Wake is taking place new images are showing something in an area where we expected to see, if not nothing, very little.


If you look at 11 o'clock next to the solar cut off disk you will see ISON - or what remains of her. We will not know for a while what we are seeing, though the professionals are putting forward educated ideas. It could be that there are a number of pieces have escaped complete destruction.


Thank you +Tavi Greiner of the CIOC_ISON Group for finding these and causing a few of us to the East of you to not go to bed when we had planned to. You have certainly brought a smile to a few people as well as causing people to scratch their heads.

In the morning I will be looking to see what has happened during the night - if I can sleep!

The Comet is Dead - Long live the research

This evening I shared with other members of the CIOC_ISON group the loss of a comet that did not live to see whether it was to be the Comet of the Century, a label promoted by the Media, rather than those who have spent many months of their lives following its progression in its orbit which it thought started in the Oort Cloud only to see it destroyed when it came close to the Sun.

We joined, with many others, the NASA ISON Google Hangout watching the progress of the comet through the use of a number of space telescopes including SOLO and STEREO.

When the Hangout finished we all drifted off - many to Thanksgiving Meals - with many giving a silent toast to this comet that had become part of our lives. Some will feel that they have lost a friend, others will feel that along with a hole in their lives.

There still remains something, but whatever there is can be no more than a ghost of the comet. there will be the dust thrown off and maybe some small fragments. I, along with others, will be trying to image this ghost in a week or so, but even if we are successful they will not be the images we had all hoped for.

ISON may be gone, but the work has not finished. The many observations of ISON are there for further research to take place because in its journey towards our Sun and its dying our understanding of our Solar System will be better understood.

I will certainly be examining the images taken, starting with the days leading up to the image I took of the disruption on the morning of the 13th of this month.


Was this the start of something that the Sun on gave the final blow. I do not know, but I am think that this is an area that needs questioning. It was only two days later when something else happened.

These are quite extreme changes - say I with so limited an experience in this area. Soon after it changed again - settling down?

Now these are just three of many images of ISON that I have taken during the past weeks. I am just one observer amongst many, so there must be thousands of images out there from which a complete illustrated history could be derived.

This is one of the reasons that I am glad that I am able to be part of the CIOC_ISON NASA ProAm Group led by +Padma Yanamandra-Fisher . This is exactly one of the many things that Padma is doing, Creating a timeline of observations that will be held in a database that can then be fully analysed by the ProAm community she has assembled.

The Comet may be dead, but the research and discoveries that will come from the observations will live on long after the general public have forgotten ISON, something of course we will never do.

Monday, 25 November 2013

C/2013 R1 Lovejoy and its tail Today

I had meant to be publishing a few of yesterday's images of Lovejoy - those will have to wait :) When I saw how the imaging of today's Lovejoy was going I thought yes - another Tail :)

Composite taken 25/11/2013 at 05:51:22.625 and 05:58.53.968 GMT (UT)
Purposely over exposed to show tail.
Each image FOV 116.5 x 77.7 arcmins - north is up.
SON@OSC (Searchlight Observatory Network at the Observatorio Sierra Contraviesa, Granada, Spain)
4" Pentax Refractor at F4, SBIG ST8 with clear filter. 1 minute exposure binx2 Observers Tony Angel & Caisey Harlingten

Little text today - so just enjoy :)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Clouds stopped play - apart from Friday

When the low clouds come in, as they did for most of he past week, it can be very frustrating in some ways, to see on The Net  images of the ever changing C/2012 S1 ISON, but it is exciting as well. Yesterday morning the clouds cleared, and I was able to take about three hundred images of Comets Lovejoy and ISON. This is about three to four times as many as I would normally take, the reason being is that with both comets being so bright now, it is no longer possible to take nice easy long exposures. Lots of short exposures means lot more work, so there will only a few to show today. This morning was particularly frustrating. Both ISON and Encke were in the same field of view, but again low cloud came in. The cloud was very thin, but because I was observing just above the horizon, the effect of trying to image through miles of thin cloud is as bad as trying to image through thick cloud. The first image from yesterday is one of a series that I took mainly to check on whether it was time to start serious imaging. Here is C/2012 S1 ISON just above a field of grape vines. If you look at the tree near the bottom it will look as though it is leaning. It is not. The field is not that steep! The image is at an angle, because the camera is always orientated so that one of the image sides is always pointing towards the Pole Star.
Below I have rotated the image so that is near the correct orientation.

I had actually started imaging a little bit early and when I get the time I will display the sequence.
Soon the comet was high enough to take reasonable images of it. Here is the best I took on Friday morning. Below you will see the negative which always shows more detail. Look at the right hand edge and the lower part of the tail.
You can see it below clearer.
and here is a blow up of the right hand edge.

Below I used a utility that makes the image look 3D. It is called a Rotational Gradient. This really highlight a disruption to the tail. One word of warning. When you start "playing" with an image whilst quite often bringing out some detail, it is also destroying other details. I always keep the original image safe and create copies to work on. It is always best to display the original image as well as the worked on one, so as not to cause confusion. 

The above images were all taken using the 4" Pentax F4 Refractor. using the ST8 CCD Camera.At the same time I was taking images with the 14" C14 and the ST7 CCD Camera. I was using this to capture the head or coma of the comet. I have still not processed most of them, but below is one image.

All I have shown here are some of the ISON images. We also took a number of images of C/2013 R1 Lovejoy. I will start processing these shortly and then show them here, hopefully on a page that I can get the formatting to work how I want :)




Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Its been a funny couple of days.

The two main comet Facebook Comet Groups I belong to - CIOC_ISON and Comet Watch - have been suffering from a shortage of current images over the past few day. Many of us have been clouded out - even though we are fairly scattered around the world.

I did manage to rescue some LRGB images from Saturday morning, but they were shot through cloud layers, which produced unusual results. I displayed one of them on Neil Norman's Comet Watch and was surprised by the positive response - I think partially because we were getting withdrawal symptoms and anything new to do with ISON helped.

On Sunday I messaged Petri Kehusmaa ,who is responsible for the SON New Mexico Observatory, asked if he could take an image of ISON for me to share with the groups and he came up trumps, even though it was hitting the limits of his local horizon, and he had to wait until just before dawn.. What I also did not know at the time was the operational telescope had not yet had First Light. Here is Petri's First Light image of Comet ISON:

The weather now seems to changing and over the past half day more images are starting to come in.

Sunday Evening saw the broadcast that I did a prerecorded interview for and +Padma Yanamandra-Fisher did live (brave lady), This was for Under British Skies on Astronomy.FM . If you missed it and would like to hear it then do not worry, a podcast will be available in a few days.

I had intended covering a recent discussion on whether Comet ISON is starting to fragment or not! That will have to wait for another day as I will soon be opening the observatory. The sky is fairly clear, so providing there is no last minute clouding we will capture some images of at least ISON,

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Nothing today but most certainly More of Yesterday the 15th November 2013

After a few hours sleep last night I went up to the observatory to open up. The ground was covered in ice and frost and the clamshell was covered in a coating of ice. I pressed the open button and nothing happened - the clams were frozen. Pushed up on one side to break the seal and it opened. That was in fact the highlight of the observing session. By the time I walked back down to the house and sat down at my desk had sat down the sky clouded over and for the next couple of hours only caught a few glimpses of C/2012 S1 ISON.

So back to yesterday.

After Wednesday I thought it would be a long time before such excitement would come around again. I was wrong!

I had opened up the observatory a little late so only spent a short time on C/2013 R1 Love joy, (note to self must get round to processing those images). Then onto C/2012 S1 ISON. After moving the telescope slightly I took a one minute exposure to check I had as much as possible on the frame.

I looked at it and thought where is the second tail. Looked again and saw that there were multiple tails. Quickly changed the setting to a 3 minute exposure and binned 3- (basically that means that a 3 x 3 square of pixels is treated as a single pixel - bigger pixels mean more light captured quickly). Started to take the image - 3 minutes gave me the chance to make a quick cup of coffee :) - the image downloaded and I thought Wow! What has happened to it?

I felt as though I was looking at an old woodcut or engraving. Just look at it and imagine if  it filled the sky as some great comets have in the past.

I sent this image along with a negative to CIOC_ISON for Padma to look at and also to Comet Watch for Neil.

Negatives are very useful as they are easier on the eye for seeing the detail. To say that when people saw this caused some interest, would be an understatement.

From downloading the image from the camera to it being up for people to view was achieved in about ten minutes.  This enabled people to react to the change, either discuss what was happening or assisting in preparing to follow up.

To achieve this speed I do have to keep the processing simple. Flat and Dark frames have been applied, the background normalised, the image slightly stretched to bring out detail, in this case rotated 180 degrees so that north is up and then first saved as a positive then a negative and finally uploaded to the sites.

If you are a serious comet observer then you may wish to join CIOC_ISON and you are a Facebook user then click on the link.

While doing this more images were needed and I set of a cycle of LRGB image taking. This involves the camera taking multiple images, rotating through clear, red, green and blue filters. Twenty seconds per image. That was when the cloud came in and only nineteen more images were taken.

It was time for a quick cup of coffee and then shutting the observatory.

Between answering and asking questions I processed four of the last set of images to produce a colour image. Because these were short exposures the coma (head) of the comet looks smaller and there is less detain in the tail.

You can though still see the multiple tails an yes the comet is green. During the rest of the day I continued to keep uptodate with the comet, taking part in a number of discussions and a number of other activities.

These activities including sending images to the Comet Section of the British Astronomical Association . Later in the day there was a report and ebulletin issued.

I also produced a montage based on the last seven days activity up to yesterday.

Although simple to put together it went down very well with all the people who saw it.

I was asked during the day for permission to display a number of the images on various websites. I may cover this in a later blog.

Finally I did a prerecroded interview with Paul Harper of  Under British Skies
and this will be broadcasted on Sunday.  Although I will be talking about the comet the interview I was first asked about what is Searchlight Observatory Network. I only hope that I get it right. :) For more on the comet there is at least one other person covering it and that is +Padma Yanamandra-Fisher and I expect that she will be the highlight of the show. Padma is responsible for the CIOC_ISON Group on Facebook.

The CIOC_ISON Group is an a forum to provide support for professional and amateur comet observers to: share, discuss and collaborate on observations of comet ISON, as part of NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC).

Well that is the description!  but it is a lot more than that.

Detailed information about the CIOC is located at:

I finally got to bed twenty four hours after last in it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

ISON changes into a Broom Star - a quick uptdate

The weather was bad yesterday morning so no observing. It was very frustrating, people were reporting activity in the coma and all I could do was read other peoples reports :(

The comet is now naked eye - not by me :( I was racing to image what I could before the Sun came up.

Again I have been lucky and pointed the telescope at the right time at the right place and captured a change.

Let us look at the difference in how C/ISON has changed over the past seven days.

The change is quite dramatic. The first image shows it with a single tail, the next it has gained a second tail, the third it has changed a great deal as covered by a previous post and now it has taken on the form that one associates with 17th and 18th Century engravings of comets - the Broom Star. ...... and this has all happened in a week!

There will be more images later today. Click on the images below to see them larger.

Morning of 9th November
Morning of 12th November
Morning of 13th November
Morning of 15th November

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The BAA and ISON

A nice finish to the day. The images have been put on the BAA Comet Gallery, Denis Buczynski published an entry in the BAA Comet Forum headed C/2012 S1 ISON tail structure activity which mentioned both myself, Caisey Harlingten and the Searchlight Observatory Network. Finally the BAA issued an ebulletin which also mentioned the observations.

A couple of hours ago I took part in a prerecorded interview for Under British Skies. I suspect that after being up since four plus today's events I sounded a little punch drunk LOL.

Now to bed, even though there is still a hundred or so images to process. It has been raining here today, so there is a good possibility that when I get up in four hours time at four o'clock, I may find that it will not be possible to observe and
be able to go back to bed.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

C/2012 S1 ISON Is in outburst :)

It has recently been confirmed that the comet is in outburst.


[Isoncoma] Alert --- Comet ISON Outburst

Nalin Samarasinha nalin at
Wed Nov 13 08:04:06 MST 2013

Dear Colleagues,

Emmanuel Jehin and colleagues (in visible) and Jacques Crovisier and
colleagues (in radio) report that comet ISON is in outburst.

Best regards,
Nalin (on behalf of Beatrice Mueller, Matthew Knight, Tony Farnham, and


It is nice to know that what we thought from my images has been confirmed.

If anyone does want to use the images from the earlier post they may, but not for profit and they must include the following information:

C/2012 S1 ISON 13/11/2013 at 05:30 UT

FOV 116.5 x 77.7 arcmins

SON@OSC (Searchlight Observatory Network at the Observatorio Sierra Contraviesa, Granada, Spain)

4" Pentax Refractor at F4, SBIG ST8 with clear filter. 3 minute exposure binx2

Observers Tony Angel & Caisey Harlingten

Copywrite: SON@OSC - Searchlight Observatory Network

Here they are again:

ISON and feeling happy :)

Just woke up from my siesta (well I did make do with just four hours last night) and saw on the CIOC_ISON Facebook Page :

ALERT: images from earlier today: from Tony Angel:
 maybe outburst - please image, take spectra ??
 Thanks Tony for the quick alert.... Thanks, Padma Fisher

CIOC_ISON: is the Pro-Am Collaboration for Support of NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC) via Social Media.

Click here to read Padma's article or visit the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign

I do know that I was not the only person to pick this up, but it still feels good :)

Special on ISON - Observation from this morning.

C/2012 S1 ISON . this morning 13/11/2013 at 05:30 GMT SON@OSC 4" refractor F4 ST8

The two tails are like searchlights - both of similar dimensions and brightness (or I might be talking a load of rubbish)

FOV 116.5 x 77.7 arcmins

Please note that this was a quick and dirty process so that anyone who is just about to start their observing run can have an idea what to look for :)

Observations of Tuesday morning 11/11/2013

Written 12/11/2013 started whilst observing.

Not sure which is more stressful; chasing the comets to image before dawn, processing the most interesting images or thinking of what to write on here :)

Certainly chasing the comets is getting more hectic as drop lower in the sky and it becomes a race to beat dawn.C/2013 R1 Lovejoy is bright and high in the sky, in fact I realised after the fact that I need to look at bringing down the exposure time for Lovejoy.  C/2012 S1 ISON is still high enough to get reasonable images, but 2P/Encke and C/2012 X1 Linear are getting quite difficult.  Today will be the last time I will try - if I have time - for a colour image of Encke and Linear.

All images were captured using the SON@OSC Observatory (Searchlight Observatory Network) 4" Pentax F4 Refractor and an ST8 CCD camera

Here are some of yesterday's images.

The t(r)ail on Encke is still very distinct and some 150 arc minutes of it are visible


Linear is getting quite faint, especially now dawn approaches. It is still possible to see the what is left from the recent outburst. 

C/2012 X1 Linear
C/2012 X1 Linear

I expect that this will be the final colour image.

C/2012 X1 Linear

The second tail of ISON was first observed a couple of days ago. This was the first chance I have had to image ISON and capture the two tails.

C/2012 S1 ISON
C/2012 S1 ISON

The two tails of Lovejoy are quite clear. There seems to be, below the other two tails, either a third tail starting or a minor outburst. 
C/2013 R1 Lovejoy
C/2013 R1 Lovejoy

I will start the observing report of this morning's observations soon. The tails of ISON have changed so I will want to get an image on here soon. :)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Another tail - this time C/2013 R1 Lovejoy

Just a shot blog today (11/11/2013). As Lovejoy is now the brightest comet in the sky by far I thought I would see if how much of the tail I could image. It was soon obvious that the tail extended beyond the width of the image - some 115 arc seconds, so I took a second and third overlapping images and found that two overlapping images could pick up all the tail capable of being captured by the current SON@OSC set up for wide field imaging - 4" F4 Pentax refractor and an SBig ST8 ccd camera.

The following images are not pretty pictures - the aim is not for beauty but for detail. That is not to say you cannot have both beauty and detail - the images of @Damien Peach belay that idea, however in this instance I needed to really stretch the image to bring out the ion tail.

First Image - showing coma and tail

Second Image - showing tail

Third Image - no tail found

Joined images one and two together.

I have seen one other image that shows the unusual detail in the second image.

Comments are welcome :)

More on Friday Morning's Comets plus Saturday Morning's Comets - that quartet again!

On Friday 08/11/2013 I wrote a little about 2P/Encke and that day's imaging of it. Here are some other images I took that morning.

C/2012 S1 ISON

C/2013 R1 Lovejoy

C/2013 R1 Lovejoy Negative

C/2012 X1 Linear

C/2012 X1 Linear Crop

Saturday morning - 09/11/2013 - covered the Quartet - Again!.

First 2P/Encke. As there was a fair amount on interest in its trail I spent as much time as possible on imaging this before dawn came.

What follows are four versions of the same image. The first is the regular image. The second is the negative. The third is a stretched regular and the fourth a stretched negatve. In the final image you can really see the meandering trail.





Below is C/2012 S1 ISON.  This is still not developing very much, though I did see an image that was taken 24 hrs after this one and a second tail has now clearly appeared. I will be trying for this tomorrow morning.

C/2012 S1 ISON

C/2012 X1 Linear continues to be fairly bright after its outburst.

C/2012 X1 Linear

C.2013 R1 Lovejoy is really becoming the star of the show. It continues to brighten and is well ahead of ISON. Where as ISON is difficult to see in 10x50 binos, Lovejoy is now being seen with the naked eye.

I used four different method of processing Lovejoy to see if I could bring out more detail. I then stretched each one.

Process 1.

Process 2

 Process 3 

Process 4

All the images were taken using the Searchlight Observatory Network Observatory here in the Sierra Contraviesa, Granada, Spain at an altitude of 4,500 feet. The telescope used is a 4" Pentax F4 refractor and the camera is a SBig ST8 . All the images, with the exception of the cropped Linear are FOV 116.5 x 77.7 arcmins

There was no observing on the morning of Sunday 10th November due to my wife going to England for a week or two. I thought it would not go down too well to open the observatory while she was getting ready to leave :)

In the next blog I will include some objects that are not comets :)