The NEOWISE Comet, whose actual name is C/2020 F3, was a pleasant surprise for the astronomical community who await such events as a newly discovered comet. First discovered in late March, the comet grew steadily brighter, eventually becoming the brightest comet to be seen in the northern hemisphere since Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. According to the experts, this comet had an orbital period of about 4,400 years prior to making its latest trip through the inner solar system. It will now be another 6,700 years before beings on earth will be able to see it again.
I have long had a very strong interest in astronomy and astrophotography and the current pandemic has allowed me to do quite a bit of studying on both topics. Hopefully soon I can get the practice in this area that I desperately need. Although it has some issues, I was relatively pleased at capturing the closeup of the comet pictured above.
Although I had a star-tracking mount that would have been perfect for this situation, I had not yet used it so I did not make this the first time. This image was “untracked” using a full-frame camera and a 200 mm lens. It is comprised of 20 “light” images (the actual photos of the comet) taken at 3.2 seconds per exposure. The aperture was f/2.8 and the ISO/gain was 6400. I combined these images with 10 “dark” frames for noise reduction purposes.
The processing here could be better and I might give it another try sometime. But, both tails of the comet are visible and I think the background stars came out alright as well.
After awhile the comet began to dive towards the horizon with the remnant glow from twilight. I happened to show up at Lee’s Bluff on the same night as accomplished Missouri nightscape photographer, Dan Zarlenga, and so we both turned our tripods around to the south and found this lovely scene. Here, the Milky Way has recently risen above a nice foreground of trees. Again, I wish I would have been a bit more prepared with a plan, but I guess this isn’t too bad.
Entrenched meanderment? What in the world is OZB going on about now? Beveridge gives a wonderful explanation of the meandering nature of virtually all Missouri Ozark streams in “Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri”. Within, he provides a few fascinating geological hypothesis as to the hows and whys of streams forming in such a manner with some of the hardest rock on the planet as their bed. Think about it. How and why would streams form in rock like this, with very little floodplain, steep cliffs/bluffs and not be straight? Pick up Beveridge’s book to read of these hypothesis as well as learn about narrows, cutoffs and lost hills – the geologic features that are formed by these entrenched, meandering streams.
Two streams with an entrenched meandering environment on public land I have known and loved for a while. These are the Meramec River at Vilander Bluffs N.A. and Jam Up Cave/Bluff on the upper Jacks Fork. These are always worth a visit. While flipping through Bryan Haynes’ book recently, I came across a panoramic painting of his that I have admired. I saw the title: “Lee’s Bluff”. Having never heard of this feature and the fact that his image was such a dramatic scene, I assumed that this must be found in some western wilderness, far from being a day trip destination. I went ahead and searched the web, and to my surprise discovered this was in Missouri, along the St. Francis River and smack in the middle of those lovely St. Francois Mountains. With Steve wearing his best navigator’s hat, we found the location pretty easily on a blustery, winter’s day.
Here’s an overview image taken with a 15mm lens. You can see the features typical of a meandering entrenched stream, the steep bluffs formed on the outside of the bend and gentle sloping floodplains on the inside. In the direct center you can see the “incipient lost hill” as described by Beveridge. One day the “narrows” on the far side of that hill will succumb and a “cutoff” will form, straightening the river.
The sky was a constant change on this day. Here Steve poses while the sun breaks through an opening.
Climbing around on the steep, sharp rocks of the bluff we came across an ancient skeleton of an eastern red cedar. The relative youngster below looks ready to take its place in another couple of centuries.
Professional schlepper, navigator, and photo model. I’m sure glad Steve works for free! 😉 Here he stands next to the old tree to give the image some perspective.
The image below is probably my favorite from this day. One of the visual beauties of these types of entrenched stream environments is that there are two S-curves in each one. You just have to figure out where to place your camera to take advantage of it. Under the right light and weather conditions, this place holds a lot of photographic potential, not to mention the potential for reflection and wonderment.