A Comet and many Star Clusters – May 2004
In May 2004 comet NEAT 2001Q4 became visible to the naked eye from our latitudes. Marco Fulle organized a trip to Stromboli to photograph the comet, but by necessity interrupted on 10th of May to fly to the European Space Agency to work on its space mission Rosetta (which is now en route to another, much fainter comet). After that he continued observing the comet from the Julian Alps. Here we present the best shots taken on Fuji Provia 400F film. For each image we provide technical data (exposure and focal length) and "sky maps" linked to from the object names (unmarked images are accessed by clicking the thumbnails). All photos in the two right hand columns were taken with a 135mm lens and are shown with North down and the East on the right. The others, in the left two columns, taken with shorter focal lengths, are shown with their long axis parallel to the horizon which is similar to the naked-eye view.
7 May 2004, from Punta Labronzo. f=28mm f/2.8, 19h15m - 19h20m UT. Faint spattering from Stromboli's NE crater illuminates the volcano's plume, while comet NEAT appears in the twilight in the constellation Puppis. Lights of Salina Island at the horizon.
9 May 2004, from Punta Labronzo. f=28mm f/2.8, 19h20m - 19h25m UT. Illuminated by small eruptions, clouds cross the twilight sky. Groups of tourists climb the volcano up to the present limit of 400 m. comet NEAT is close to star cluster M48.
7 May 2004, from Punta Labronzo. f=135mm f/2.8, 19h15m - 19h20m UT. Comet NEAT is surrounded by several bright star clusters located in the winter Milky Way: the two brightest ones are M46 and M47.
9 May 2004, from Punta Labronzo. f=135mm f/2.8, 19h20m - 19h25m UT. Two days later, the comet's blue ion tail had become much brighter and longer and pointed towards the bright star cluster M48 (top right corner).
7 May 2004, from Punta Labronzo. f=28mm f/2.8, 20h25m - 20h40m UT. Venus shines brightly abve the sea, which reflects its light as if it were the moon. Two more plantes are within the zodiacal light which dominates this splendid nightly scene.
16 May 2004, from Mt. Zoncolan, Julian Alps. f=85mm f/2.8, 21h40m - 22h00m UT. The blue ion tail now spans more than fifteen degrees. Bright star cluster M44 shines below the long tail in Cancer.
16 May 2004, from Mt. Zoncolan, Julian Alps. f=135mm f/2.8, 21h40m - 22h00m UT. The comet was tracked during this long exposure of 20 minutes, which makes the stars (and M44 in the upper left corner) seem to move.
19 May 2004, from Mt. Zoncolan, Julian Alps. f=135mm f/2.8, 21h35m - 21h55m UT. Three days later, the tail had once more become much shorter and fainter: Comet NEAT is now going to disappear into deep space.