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Spring Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Beautiful Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

The periodic comet 12P/Pons-Brooks made after 70 years its another return in inner Solar System during the springtime of 2024. Here are my observations.

26th March 2024

Despite its height over the horizon, the comet’s 12P/Pons-Brooks best season is just starting. The Moon slowly moves away from the evening sky and the comet’s head reaches 5th magnitude. I tried to catch it yesterday evening, 26th March 2024, from Záhradné, Slovakia, but cirrus clouds were passing. Moonlight made the photography even more challenging. In the view, the Triangulum Galaxy can also be seen, and on the right bottom corner are transmission towers of Lysá Mount (elev. 1058 meters), where I was observing comet Nishimura last year.

Evening Comet Pons-Brooks

Evening Comet Pons-Brooks

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm (set to 200mm), 43x20s, ISO 800, 2.8, tracked on Vixen Polarie U, ground frozen. For M33 I used previous data from moonless nights.

19th March 2024

This image I planned very long, but despite precise planning, thousands of kilometers of driving, and good equipment I always failed due to bad weather. But on 19 March 2024, I finally succeeded. So what is so special in this view? Obviously, the celestial visitor, comet 12P/Pons-Brooks with its beautiful tail, appears over mountains, illuminated by gentle moonlight. While on the right, Kežmarský štít (alt. 2 558 m) can be seen, on the left it is accompanied by higher Lomnický štít (alt. 2 634 m). If you take a closer look, on the summit of Lomnický štít is a building. In fact, it is one of the highest-located astronomical observatories in central Europe. Between 1946 and 1959, just in the period when comet Pons-Brooks visited our Solar System last time, several other comets were discovered in this magical mountainous place. The image was taken from Veľká Lomnica, about 11 km away from the summit.

High Tatras Cometary Visitor

High Tatras Cometary Visitor

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm@200mm, 1.4x Teleconverter, ISO 2000, 42x20s (comet, tracked on Vixen Polarie U) plus 7x20s (tracking was off for foreground image).

14th March 2024

Can we touch a comet? Of course not, but we can do it symbolically. For example, the currently visible 12P/Pons-Brooks with its ~17km wide dirty-snowball-nucleus I managed to capture with precise planning on a hill of Oravská Lesná, Slovakia, with me seemingly trying to touch it in the hazy moonlit-sky, however that night on 14th March 2024, it was about 245 million kilometers away from me. The comet is now slowly getting the closest to Earth, which will happen on June 2nd, but still, it won’t be closer than 232 million kilometers from us. Still, its majestic ion tail on photographs makes it feel like the comet is within reach.

A Comet Within Reach

A Comet Within Reach

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm/200mm, f2.8, ISO 2500, 23x30s, tracked on Vixen Polarie U, Optolong Clear Sky filter (comet’s tail); Tamron 70-200mm/70mm, f2.8, ISO 2500, 61x30s, tracked on Vixen Polarie U (wide view with galaxies) plus Canon 6D (modified), Sigma 50mm, f2.8, ISO 5000, 10x10s, tripod (foreground “selfie”), all data then combined and stitched as panorama to the final image.

9th March 2024

On 9 March 2024, there was a slight chance for some clear skies over Oravská Lesná, Slovakia. Unfortunately, the sky cleared up everywhere except the position of the comet 12P/Pons-Brooks. From the whole 2-hours shooting, I only had some 3 minutes of sort of clear view of the comet with Andromeda Galaxy. So no deep imaging was possible. Here is the view I had just before the opaque clouds, illuminated by distant Czech cities, totally covered the view. I feel even these few minutes count.

Only Few Minutes

Only Few Minutes

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm/123mm, f2.8, ISO 4000, 7x30s, tracked on Vixen Polarie U, used Optolong Clear Sky filter.

5th March 2024

Okay, this was wild. Despite the promising forecast, I had to travel over 300 km to realize I would probably not take any shot of the comet 12P/Pons-Brooks on the evening of 5 March 2024. When reached Telgart, Slovakia, the sky was hopelessly cloudy. I knew I had roughly 2 hours to take some shots of the comet. I quickly decided to move south, towards the Revúca city. The whole way, truly thick fog was on the road. When I finally reached Revúca, the sky was clear, but I didn’t know this place at all so I was not able to find a spot with a view of the comet. Eventually, when I almost gave up and was returning back, I found a side road to a field, from where the comet was low over the horizon. No matter what, I started blindly the photography. Just on the site, I found out the composition is, actually nice with a distant tree, the fog illuminated by the passing cars, and the clouds were far enough to make this shot. Good luck in bad luck, indeed.

Calm View, Wild Story

Calm View, Wild Story

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm/70mm, f2.8, ISO 4000, 47x30s, tracked on Vixen Polarie U, Optolong L-Pro filter.

4th March 2024

As the comet slowly moves in the Andromeda constellation, a beautiful composition with galaxies M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M32, M110 and M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) appears now and upcoming nights in the evening sky. Despite very unpredictable clouds, I made it happen to capture the current “Andromeda family portrait”) with the comet 12P/Pons-Brooks and bright star Mirach, accompanied by the mentioned galaxies. For better orientation, check also the annotated version.

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda - annotated

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda – annotated

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm (70mm), f2.8, ISO 3200, Optolong L-Pro, Vixen Polarie U. Panorama of 2 segments, each 17x30s. Captured from a field near Bijacovce, Slovakia. Unfortunately, lots of clouds and haze during the photography made the result not as clean as I wanted to have.

Okay, this one was very challenging for post-processing. Back on Monday 4th March 2024, I managed to find the exact spot, from which the comet 12P/Pons-Brooks and Andromeda Galaxy were setting just behind the Lomnicky Stit Mount. It is the place of the highest observatories in Slovakia, the Lomnicky Stit and Skalnate Pleso astronomical observatories, from where also several comets were discovered in 50′ of last century. So in the same era when Pons-Brooks made its last closest approach to the Sun and Earth as well. During the photography, the fast-moving clouds made it almost impossible to take a successful clean shot. Since the weather doesn’t promise to repeat this photograph in better conditions next days, I decided to combine all data taken from the spot that night so this unique composition did not end in digital trash. And, eventually, it doesn’t look that bad.

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda

Comet and Galaxy over High Tatras – Crop

12P/Pons-Brooks in Andromeda - Crop

Comet and Galaxy over High Tatras

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm (70mm), f2.8, Optolong L-Pro, Vixen Polarie U. Sky: ISO 3200, 17x30s (tracked), foreground: ISO 5000, 6x15s (not tracked); sky registered to foreground according to stars position.

3rd March 2024

After three weeks of cloudy days, I could finally try to catch the brightening comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which is every day more and more beautiful. My attempt to catch comet 12P/Pons-Brooks on the evening of 3 March 2024, around 7PM UT, brought me to Zdiar, Slovakia, where I found a piece of clear skies after 140 km of driving. Unfortunately, strong light pollution from Zakopane city in the direction of the comet made the photography more challenging. Also, there was no free view in the direction of the comet, so I kept a tree from the exposures in the field of view. Eventually, it looks pretty nice, I think 🙂

Beautiful Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Beautiful Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm (200 mm), ISO 5000, f2.8, 47x15s, tracked on Vixen Polarie-U. Used Optolong L-Pro filter (pretty helpful for ion tail).

15th February 2024

Yesterday evening, on February 15, 2024, around 7:00 PM UTC I was lucky to capture (on a 200mm telephoto lens from east Slovakia) the brightening periodic comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which might be very promising during the upcoming two months. Due to strong moonlight, not much can be seen in the tail, but the comet’s head is now easily visible to small binoculars. Better visibility is now in the mornings, but after the Full Moon evening times for the observation will be much more favorable. Good luck!

Moonlight Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Moonlight Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks


Used Canon Ra, Tamron 70-200mm@200mm, f2.8, ISO 6400, 62x10s, tracked on Vixen Polarie U mount.