60 degrees north.
The Kenai Peninsula
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Jan 25th 7:45AM above and right of brightest star, Altair. The full moon lit the foreground Nikon N2020 60mm f2.8, 15 seconds with Kodak Ektachrome 400X
Also Feb 8th 6:30AM. Shows Hale-Bopp location between Vega and Altair. Nikon N90, 50mm f1.4 at 30 seconds on Fuji Provia 100 film. Altair and Vega are "squashed" as a result of being on the edge of frame taken with a wide open aperture.
Feb 8th 6:30AM. HB is now
far to left of Altair (bottom right-center) Note coat hanger
asterism in upper center. Nikon N90,
60mm f2.8 for 20 seconds on 400 Royal Gold
Feb 10th - First evening Hale-Bopp was bright enough for a photo just before setting in the west Nikon N2020 60mm f2.8 lens, 25 seconds on Ektachrome 400X
Hale-Bopp leaving Sagitta. The tail is well defined and easily seen with the naked eye. Feb 11th 6:30AM. Nikon N90, 50mm f1.4, 25 sec Provia 100 film
On a crystal clear Saturday Feb 15th at 6:00 AM the aurora can be seen to lower left of Hale-Bopp now sporting a tail several degrees long. Nikon N2020, 50mm f1.4, 45 sec on Ektachrome 400X
The North American Nebula
is visible in upper left quadrant of this and the previous
image. This one taken on Feb 18th, a stroke of luck between
weather fronts, shows Hale-Bopp has moved north almost into
Cygnus. Nikon N2020, 50mm f1.4, 30-40
sec on Royal Gold 1000
Over the city of Kenai at 8PM on the 18th. The comet is sandwiched between two light trails. One trail left by an aircraft landing at the Kenai airport and another of an aircraft passing high overhead. Nikon N90 50mm f2.0, 30 seconds on Fuji Provia 100
I built a Haig or, as some call it, a Scotch equatorial mount this week to try for some longer exposures without star trails. The skies finally cleared on the evening of the 23rd.
For comparison I shot the following two exposures on 1000
speed film. At 8PM, just
before moonrise I took this 2 minute exposure with the Haig
mount. Note the blurred trees but sharp stars.
Nikon N2020 50mm fl.4, 2 minutes on Kodak
Same shot for 40 seconds without the Haig mount. Sharp trees but blurred stars and comet. House lights are lighting the trees. Nikon N2020 50mm fl.4 40 seconds on Kodak Gold 1000
The real proof of the Haig mount's value is in this telephoto shot. Star trials would have been very distracting in this one minute telephoto exposure. Nikon N2020 210mm f4, 1 minute exposure on Haig mount. Kodak Gold 1000
Another of the birch tree shots but with slower less grainy film. Nikon N90 50mm f2, 1 minute exposure on Haig mount. Fuji Provia 100
If you are having trouble finding the comet, this picture of the summer triangle may help. Taken March 1st towards the east one hour before sunrise.. Nikon N90 20mm f2.8, 15 seconds on Kodak Ektachrome 400X
This shot on Saturday morning March 1st demonstrates the distinct difference between the upper ion tail and the lower dust tail of Hale-Bopp. Nikon N90 50mm f2.8, 2 minute exposure on Haig mount. Kodak Ektachrome 400X
Also on March 1st - a good
reason to get up early and look over your
roof. Nikon N90 50mm f2, 20 seconds on
Kodak Ektachrome 400X.
After we suffered six straight days of clouds and snow I was amazed to see the increase in brightness and size of Hale-Bopp on March 9th. Nikon N2020 50mm f1.4, 20 second exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 1000
On Sunday the 9th I left
a camera out on a tripod from 10:30PM to 4:30AM to
demonstrate that Hale-Bopp shines all night here at 60
degrees north latitude. I think the batteries died after
about 2 to 3 hours but the point is made.
Nikon N2020 20mm at f8, 2 to 3 hour
exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 1000
4AM on Wednesday the 12th,
the aurora borealis appeared to be hindering the view of
Hale-Bopp but this picture proves that the multi colored
band of northern lights enhanced the photograph.
Nikon N90 50mm at f1.4, 30 second exposure
on Kodak Royal Gold 400
Over my roof with the
northern lights at 4AM. The green hue on the snow is caused
by my neighbors' mercury vapor yard
light. Nikon N90 50mm at f1.4, 20 second
exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 400
March 12th 10PM from a hill
overlooking the western Kenai Peninsula all the way to the
Alaska Range 60 to 70 miles away. The first quarter moon was
just bright enough to light the mountains. Aircraft passing
right to left. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0,
30 second exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 1000
4AM on March 15th. The two
tails show their colors in this telephoto
shot. Nikon N2020 180mm at f2.8, 1
minute exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 1000 film using the
Again at 4AM two days later
on the 17th, this long exposure shows the richness of the
Milky Way as Hale-Bopp moves ever closer to Andromeda and
Cassiopeia. Nikon N2020 50mm at f2.0, 4
minute exposure on Kodak Royal Gold 1000 using the
VERNAL EQUINOX This
photo was taken at approximately 4:56AM Alaska Standard Time
March 20th, the exact moment of the vernal equinox.
Hale-Bopp was the first thing I saw this Spring. Another
experience to remember. Two minute
exposure on Ektachrome 400X, 180mm f2.8 using my
The full moon is washing
out the ion tail of Hale-Bopp but I had to take this picture
on the 22nd to record HB's nearest approach to the earth.
Moonlight makes for interesting colors.
Nikon N90 180mm at f2.8, 1 minute exposure on Ektachrome
400X using Haig
WELCOME TO SOLDOTNA
is the message here. Hale-Bopp in full moonlight arrives on
the outskirts of town. Nikon N90 50mm at
f2.0, 20 second exposure on Ektachrome 400X.
The eclipse of the moon
was a disappointment. Clouds prevented us from viewing it
until the very end and then only through a hazy sky. This
multiple exposure was taken over a15 minute
period. Nikon N90 300mm at f4.0, 4 1/30
second exposures on Fuji 400HG.
March 25th just before moonrise HB can be seen clearly in the richness of the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy is visible below the comet. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 25 second exposure on Fuji 800HG.
The Alaska Air Guard is on the watch for comets and other intruders. My brother phoned me to ask if I had stayed up all night with Photoshop creating this image. Not so. The aircraft is a static display in front of the Kenai airport. So, brother Dick, (click here to see Dick's expert aurora borealis photography), take that. :-) This picture is not a composite. But, to be fair to Dick, I must admit that since he first suggested it was a composite others have expressed similar doubts. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 30 second exposure on Fuji 800HG.
Welcome To Kenai. On
March 25th the comet makes an appearance over the Village
with a past, City with a future. Nikon
N90 50mm at f2.8, 30 second exposure on Fuji
2 AM local time March 28th. My attempts to capture the Andromeda Galaxy in one of my comet photos has again been nixed by weather. Our clouds here at 60 degrees north are waiting for the moonrise before lifting. I've put a small arrow here to mark our neighboring galaxy. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 1 minute exposure on Fuji 400HG, guided by haig mount.
The sun still
silhouettes the mountains at 10PM in Alaska. The comet
points to the divide between the Alaskan and Aleutian
mountain ranges across Cook Inlet. How many constellations
and stars can you name here? Nikon N90
20mm at f2.8, 30 second exposure on Fuji 400HG.
The Russian Orthodox
Church of Ninilchik is a favorite subject of many a
photographer. On this very clear and dark night of the 28th,
the Andromeda Galaxy is clearly visible below Hale-Bopp and
to the left of the right side cupola.
Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 25 second exposure on Fuji 400HG. .
Andromeda and Hale-Bopp shine amid thousands of stars in our Milky Way. Nikon N2020 50mm at f2.0, a minute 30 second exposure on Ektachrome 400X with haig equatorial mount.
Another shot of the
Orthodox Church in Ninilchik, Alaska. It is Easter morning,
a candle shines in the window, the aurora borealis is
creating a halo around the church, Hale-Bopp shines overhead
and Andromeda nearly touches the center cross. I don't know
if I'll ever capture more in a single
photograph. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 30
second exposure on Fuji 400HG.
My 7 year old daughter helps me a lot on my trips around town to shoot the comet. Easter night she and I took our own picture on our back deck. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.8, 25 second exposure on Fuji 400HG using a rear curtain synch flash of 1/64th power.
A satellite passed in
front of the comet at around 10PM March 30th (7AM UT the
31st). I wonder if anyone seeing this knows what satellite
it was. We are at 60:29N 151:03W. Nikon
N90 180mm at f2.8, 2 minute exposure on Fuji 400HG using
Every neighborhood ought to have skies like these throughout the year and each of us live in a house as bright and cheerful as this one photographed on April 2nd. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 25 second exposure on Fuji 400HG.
I have a new FJR German equatorial mount that I used for this photo on April 5th. I'm still refining my polar alignment of the new gadget but posted this image anyway because it appears to show an anti-tail in front of the comet. Probably just an aberration but you can learn more about anti-tails in this study by astrophotographer Tom Polakis. Nikon N90 180mm at f2.8, 1 minute exposure on Fuji 400HG. Guided? by FJR mount.
On the same evening as above a faint aurora filled the sky at 10:30 so I switched to my 50mm lens to get this shot featuring the red aurora borealis haze in the background. Nikon N90 50mm at f2.0, 1 minute exposure on Fuji 400HG. Guided? by FJR mount.
Kenai's elder residents
will enjoy seeing this image of The Kenai Senior Citizens
Center under Hale-Bopp taken at 12:30AM April
9th. Nikon N90 50mm lens at f 2.0 20
seconds on Fuji 800 Super G
Sharing the sky with moon
light and sunset, the aurora borealis started its show late
April 10th with a colorful cloud that rose in the south and
then drifted north to light up Cook Inlet.
Nikon N90 20mm lens at f 2.8 30 seconds on
Fuji 400 HG
The northern lights
spectacle continued into the early morning hours of the
11th. Hale-Bopp is surrounded by a purple hue that descends
into the lights of Kenai, Alaska. A moon glade on Cook Inlet
and the constellations add even more excitement to this very
"busy" photograph. Nikon N90 20mm lens
at f 2.8 30 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
As the auroral show
continues, Hale-Bopp points earthward to the Kenai
Airport. This is the photo I've been waiting to shoot
all Spring. The comet has crossed the path taken by
Hyakutake one year earlier. It now lies in nearly the same
spot on the same date 365 days later. The similarities in
these two photos taken one
year apart are eerie. Nikon N90 50mm
lens at f 2.0 25 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
Couldn't resist taking my own photo against this rich backdrop. Nikon N90 50mm lens at f 2.0 20 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
2AM Saturday the 12th and,
although a bit less colorful, the aurora still engulfs
Hale-Bopp in its green haze while streaks of purplish spires
sachet side to side. Nikon N90 50mm lens
at f 2.0 20 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
We've all had a wonderful experience with Hale-Bopp by virtue of a "bird's eye view". The tenants of this house literally so. Nikon N90 50mm lens at f 2.8 30 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
This sign says it all. Photographed on 4/18/97 three miles north of Ninilchik, Alaska. Nikon N2020 50mm lens at f 2.8 20 seconds on Kodak Gold 1000
On 4/19/97 in the very early morning, the aurora borealis started to dance across Cook Inlet. Nikon N90 20mm lens at f 28 25 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
The aurora grows across
to engulf the entire Inlet and forms a huge pillow shape
under Hale-Bopp. Heavenly sights indeed.
Nikon N90 50mm lens at f 2.0 15 seconds on Fuji 400
Our "daylight" comet
visits the shores of Kachemak Bay at Homer, Alaska. The
moonlight is so bright now that midnight seems like daylight
to an open camera lens. Nikon N90 50mm
lens at f 2.0 20 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
Hale-Bopp above the city of Homer, Alaska as seen from the Homer Spit, world famous as the end of the road in Tom Bodett's novels and radio programs.. Nikon N90 50mm lens at f 2.0 20seconds on Fuji 400 HG
Now that the negative effect of moonlight is passed we have another uncompromising fact of nature to deal with. In our northern latitudes the sun's glow lights the horizon nearly all night. This shot taken close to 1:00AM April 27th demonstrates our predicament. Nikon N2020 50mm lens at f 2.0 20 seconds on Fuji 400 HG
In January and February I bragged about the advantages of our long dark nights in Alaska. Today the opposite is true. Even near 1:00AM local time the skies are too bright for a clear view of Hale-Bopp's ion tail. Another new development this week was that the comet, at less than 30 degrees declination, set below the horizon for the first time since mid February. For we Alaskans the show is nearly over and views like the one captured in this picture will be left to our memories and our photographs. Nikon N2020 180mm lens at f 28 1 minute on Fuji 400 HG
Thanks for coming by. I will be adding photos daily as weather permits, so please try to visit again tomorrow.
I enjoy hearing from you. Feel free to send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hyakutake images from March/April 1996
All photos Copyright ©, Bill Hutchinson,