Sheldon, Iowa — If you know where to look this week, you might be able to see the NEOWISE Comet low in the northwestern sky late at night. And a Sheldon photographer not only saw the comet, but was able to capture it in a photograph.
Dean Hansen tells KIWA that he had some trouble locating the comet initially.
(As above) “That was quite a challenge. I had talked to two friends that had already photographed it, and I’d done some reading about it, so I went out to a gravel road north of the golf course where it’s pretty dark without any other lights in that area, like wind turbines or anything like that. And I started looking for the comet. And I was, of course, looking in the wrong place.”
Hansen says he finally found the comet by accident, with help from an unlikely source.
(As above) “I kinda found it by accident. I’d been looking for half an hour with my eyes, switching off to binoculars. The helicopter flew in to the hospital, which is clear off to the west from where I was. I decided to watch the helicopter for a while. And as I was scanning the sky, looking back from the helicopter landing, there it was! So it was quite a deal on how I ended up finding it.”
He talks about the equipment he used to capture the comet’s image.
(As above) “I used a professional camera to capture it, on a tripod and with a telephoto lens. The key part of that is to have the tripod hold the camera steady while I take the photograph. The photograph I sent you is a 30-second exposure, and that creates the stream on the comet when you see the photograph.”
Hansen had some words of wisdom for anybody else who wants to photograph, or just take a look at, the NEOWISE Comet.
(As above) “If there’s anybody that wants to see if they can just look at it, whether they want to take a picture of it, or not, what I would recommend that they do is turn on the compass in their iPhone, or their phone and then look to 300-degrees on it, which is exactly northwest. It’s not very high in the sky, and I really don’t think it’s visible in the evening much before 10:30. But if you know that compass setting, wow, does that narrow the sky down a lot for you. So, I’d recommend trying that if you want to look at it.”
The NEOWISE Comet isn’t Hansen’s first time photographing a celestial being. In 2017 he traveled to South Carolina to photograph the eclipse. Earlier this year he says he tried to photograph the Space-X Satellite Train, but had no luck.
Hansen’s photo of the NEOWISE Comet can be seen at the top of this page.