If you’ve seen some of the spectacular shots of Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) that have been shared over the last couple of weeks but haven’t yet had a go yourself, here are 5 great UK spots to photograph Comet NEOWISE.
The comet is predicted to be visible for a few more weeks, but by Thursday 23rd July will be at its closest to Earth (64 million miles away!) so this week is a good time to give it a go. You need to head out on the next clear night. The good news is, it’s now visible much earlier, right after dark, making it easier to find and photograph.
Here PhotoHounders share 5 UK locations from which to shoot Comet NEOWISE, with a few handy tips from our pros to help you set up and get your best shots.
1) Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Wales-based photographer, Mathew Browne, used the silhouette of the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge as the perfect foreground for this amazing shot of the comet. The presence of noctilucent (or night shining) clouds here was an unexpected bonus. Mathew writes: ‘To capture NEOWISE, you’ll need a clear, low viewpoint to the northern horizon. Clear skies, ideally light-pollution free, are also key. After the sun sets, look for the Big Dipper constellation in the northwestern sky and just below it you’ll be able to locate the comet. It was absolutely worth the 5-hour round trip to capture this once in a lifetime image.’
2) Glastonbury Tor, Somerset
Somerset-based photographer, Esen Tunar, chose Glastonbury Tor as the dramatic setting for his shot of the comet. ‘It’s rather exciting to finally have a comet bright enough to see with naked eye in the northern hemisphere. To locate it, start by defocusing your eyes and scanning the sky quickly searching for the faint glow of the tail.
If you’re struggling to see it with the naked eye, try hunting for it using a fast lens or use a pair of binoculars which will allow you to get an instant close-up of anything you think might be the comet. The tail should be quite obvious.’
3) Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
James Billings ventured out to Ely this week to a footbridge over the southern bypass from which he captured this incredible shot of NEOWISE over Ely Cathedral. James advises; ‘Use a sturdy tripod and and shoot with a fast, prime lens if possible as the wide aperture will allow you to capture more light and thus get a more detailed image. A 50mm prime lens gives a pleasing focal length to capture the comet with exposure times of up to 10 seconds and is a relatively inexpensive lens option. Consider using a remote shutter, either wired or a wireless cable, to avoid motion which can interfere with your images.’
4) National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
If you’re lucky enough to be within driving distance of the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire, this is the perfect other-wordly location to try your luck. ‘With planning, patience, and clear skies, you can capture an unforgettable image of this celestial event here’, says Mathew Browne. ‘Once you’ve decided on your location, there are a couple of great apps I would recommend to help plan your shoot in detail.
I started with Stellarium, a free, open-source planetarium for your computer, (there’s a web version too). Put in your location and Stellarium will show you how the sky will look at any time. If you click on NEOWISE, Stellarium will show you the azimuth (direction) and altitude for any given time.
I also used The Photographer’s Ephemeris – an extraordinary planning tool available as a paid iOS and Android app, or a free-to-use web version. Use TPE to plot your viewing location and an object you want to shoot, and TPE will tell you the direction and altitude. Combine this with Stellarium to work out where NEOWISE is in the sky, and how this will work with the object you want to shoot and you’re good to go!’
5) Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber, Pembrokeshire
Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber in Pembrokeshire, Wales, provides a mystical foreground for the final location in our top 5 spots to photograph NEOWISE. It’s elevated viewpoint and excellent dark skies mean it’s also a great place to spot the elusive phenomenon of noctilucent clouds.
Nobody knows for sure how long Comet NEOWISE will be visible at night. In theory, it should be visible in the northwest evening sky until at least the end of July, but it’s by no means guaranteed. Once it disappears, NASA advises it won’t be visible for another 6800 years! So don’t delay – get out and shoot it while you can!
Have you got a great shot of Comet NEOWISE to share? Add your shoot location to PhotoHound together with your image and we’ll share it with the PhotoHound community – we may even add it to this post.