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"Hyakutake I"
Comet Hyakutake
3/23/96 from Conifer, CO
5 minute time exposure -- 55mm f/2 on hypered Kodak Technical Pan film (a type of high contrast, very fine grain copy film). "Hypersensitizing" the film is a process that makes the film better at retaining a build-up of image, which is perfect for time exposures of dim astronomical subjects. These photos, as with all time exposures of astronomical subjects, often show more than a non-technical photograph could get. I recommend the black and white TMAX films, either the ASA 400 or the ASA 3200. For color shots, I prefer Fuji films of similar speeds. Negative -- as opposed to slide -- film is commonly believed to be the best for this sort of dim-object photography.

This photo was taken atop the "driven" (to compensate for the earth's rotation) Celestron C-8 telescope, NOT through it. As long as the film and camera are set correctly, the non-technical types can make this exposure from a typical tripod. The technique is reviewed more in my Lesson, but essentially anyone can obtain excellent photos of comets, star fields, etc., with "normal" equipment.

An observer could map the comet's path on succeeding nights and draw its shape and tail. You might want to note that although the comet moves quickly in celestial terms, it's essentially in the same position over the length of one observing session, moving only very little against the background of stars. This comet was extraordinary because its movement could be detected from the beginning to the end of the observing session.

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All images and narratives copyright Willis Greiner, all rights reserved.

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