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Comet Leonard Captured in Stunning Photos by Backyard Photographer

As Comet Leonard whizzed by Earth during Christmas festivities on its journey through the Solar System, photographer Andrew McCarthy went out into his backyard. He captured  incredible photos of the colorful Christmas Comet. A Close-Up Photo of Comet Leonard Through a Telescope

McCarthy went outside on the night of December 26th and managed to photograph the comet for about 12 minutes despite it being low in the southwestern sky. McCarthy added that the brief window gave me a great look at the incredible structure and color around the nucleus.They couldn’t quite see it with the naked eye, but through binoculars I could see it pretty clearly. You can actually capture it with just a cell phone if you know where to look.

McCarthy used a modified SCT telescope and captured 25 separate 30-second exposures. He then stacked the 25 frames together to create this single zoomed-in photo of Comet Leonard.The fact that the comet was so low on the horizon from McCarthy’s vantage point also presented challenges due to light pollution and Earth’s atmosphere.It had to have software remove harsh background transients caused by thin clouds and light pollution.

There was also an orange cast to everything due to Rayleigh scattering, so the image had to be precisely color balanced to resolve the tail as anything beyond an orange smear. Once the background gradients were removed and the image was color balanced, by ‘stretching’ the histogram (brightening the image) I could bright out the faint irregular structure in the tail, distorted by a recent disconnection event.

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