Comet Hale-Bopp and The Pleiades for Weekly Photo Challenge and Thursday’s Special

Survived by approximately several trillion siblings, Comet ISON leaves behind an unprecedented legacy for astronomers, and the eternal gratitude of an enthralled global audience. In ISON’s memory, donations are encouraged to your local astronomy club, observatory or charity that supports STEM and science outreach programs for children. 

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)
Born 4.5 Billion BC, Fragmented Nov 28, 2013 (age 4.5-billion yrs old) 

Karl Battams
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign

© Babsje (

Comet Hale-Bopp at top right, the Pleiades mid-frame above the trees.

Like many astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere, I was eagerly anticipating a naked-eye view of Comet ISON this December. When last I last I photographed a comet, it was in the pre-digital camera era for me, and so I was sorting out the gear and possible locations for 21st century comet shoots. But it was not to be.

As Dr. Tony Phillips writes in What Happened to Comet ISON?

Dec. 4, 2013:  Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot.  Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.

Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.

Hopes for December comet-watching dashed, I’ve taken a walk down memory lane, revisiting archives of the last comet I photographed, Hale-Bopp, sixteen years ago.

This is Thursday, time for Paula’s wonderful Thursday’s Special challenge, and I’m submitting this post because the year of Comet Hale-Bopp holds a special place with fond memories.

Also, this week, Ben Huberman has challenged us to show light sources. The above photo has many: besides the comet at top right and The Pleiades clustered in the center, untold other celestial bodies are visible.

One of hundreds of photos taken during the months Hale-Bopp was visible here, this scene was across the road from home, an expanded view of more of the landscape from the first comet photo I shared here. (Please click here if you missed seeing my daughter posing with Hale-Bopp)

Karl Battams makes a valuable suggestion in the quote at the start of this post: support STEM and outreach programs for children.

During the year of Hale-Bopp, we watched and photographed almost daily for the duration, tracking the comet’s position on paper star charts. We experimented with all of the low light film we could find, comparing the quality of color reproduction and sharpness. Lacking any idea how long an exposure needed to be in order to clearly see the comet on film, and without a timer on-hand, my daughter hit on the hippopotamus technique: she would depress the plunger on the cable release and hold the shutter open while counting out loud “one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus.” It worked from the very first photo!

We had a great time together, just the two of us viewing the comet through my old 35mm Konica and small toy telescope, but what really made an impression were the star parties, where people from the community and scientists from MIT and Harvard gathered at the elementary school with their telescopes and gave everyone a more up-close-and-personal experience.

While Comet ISON is done, there will be others, and Comet Hale-Bopp will swing back by Earth in around 5,000 years, give or take.

But please don’t wait that long to get involved with science outreach in your community.


Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Night Shots prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Sky. (The night sky is so wondrous.)

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: High. (How high sky!)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

(This photo was taken In 1997.)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Comet Hale-Bopp, The Pleiades, Comet ISON 2013

Posted on December 5, 2013, in A Word A Week Photo Challenge, Art, Astronomy, Astrophotography, Nature Photography, Parenting, Photography, postaday, Skywatch Friday, Sunday Stills, Thursday's Special, Weekly Photo Challenge and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Fascinating Babsje! This contribution of yours is certainly one of the highlights of this week’s photo challenge!

    • Thank you so much! In retrospect, I was as smitten by Hale-Bopp as I have been with the Great Blue Herons, though back in 1997 the realities of real film limited me to hundreds and hundreds of comet photos instead of the thousands and thousands of the heron photos.

  2. Very beautiful photo and post for SWF!Have a nice weekend.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Babsje!

  4. I have granted you the Most Influential Blogger Award. I hope you enjoy it. I can totally understand if you do not wish to participate. I think your blog is wonderful and wanted you to know that.

    • Wow, I’m honored by your touching gesture, many thanks! It will take me a little while to craft a proper reply per the award guidelines, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your thoughtfulness very much. Thank you!

  5. Wow, I am impressed that you did that, great photo. Also, real funny with the hippopotamus technique, lol, learned something new today 🙂

  1. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Closer to Heaven | Lost in Translation

  2. Pingback: Happy New Year from Tracking the Light! | tracking the light


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