April 11, 2020
Amboy Crater, CA
Weather: Clear – Cool, calm, slightly humid. 70-60°F (21-15°C).
Observing Time: 8:30 pm to moonrise (11:45 pm)
Bortle Scale: 2
Usually my imaging sessions don’t have any agendas – I shoot what I want to shoot. But when your superiors at work are asking staff who are also astrophotographers for any media of Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) that they can use, especially because of the comet apparently beginning break up and dim, then of course I had to jump at the chance of going out again.
The waning gibbous moon rising before midnight meant I only had a few hours of dark sky to work with on April 11, but again, I was motivated to snap more shots and it was my only chance for clear skies during a period of April showers over Southern California
There were more people camping out or backpacking at Amboy Crater than I expected, but then again it was a Saturday after all.
While the empty space at the overflow lot where I set up did attract a few more campers, they were very courteous, and I never had any issues with them ruining any shots. I even presented the constellations and shared my images to a couple from Manhattan Beach. If you happen to be reading this, sorry I forgot your names – but you have my card!
As for Comet ATLAS, when it was finally truly dark, I could tell that the object had dimmed significantly compared to how it looked through my 8″ telescope two weeks prior. It was a tad more diffuse and much harder for me to spot – I had to enter the coordinates a couple times and go to a random Messier object to see if my scope was even accurate.
As the images tell, the nucleus did appear slightly more elongated due to the ongoing break up.
After shooting and getting an hours worth of image data, I went after M101 – a target that still keeps eluding me due to frequent autoguider issues I’ve been having the past few sessions.
With “impaired” guiding I still managed a decent four minute exposure. But my quest continues for that super amazing shot of it. I guess now is a good time to figure out what I’m doing wrong!
The moon rising before midnight meant one thing and one thing only – time to pack up and go home!