Comet Halley Sampler

Here are 3 shots of Comet Halley which I took in April of 1986. The photos are not the greatest, but considering what I had to work with at the time they are better than nothing!

I took these photos from Mount Palomar while on a business trip. I had only a 35mm camera, an Astroscan 2001 telescope, and 7x35 binoculars with me. All photos are one minute or less (no clock drive). Film was Tri-X I believe. Taken sometime in April 1986. Not sure of the exact date... I guess I could backtrack and find out when Comet Halley was due north of Omega Centauri. See more text below the photos for stories of my adventures on Mt. Palomar!

This photo shows fairly severe light pollution from San Diego. All in all however, I wish I had skies as good as Mt. Palomar where I live!

In this shot, the bright "blob" almost directly below Comet Halley is none other than the great globular Omega Centauri! It was cool to see it (despite the low altitude) since it is not visible from my hometown.

One final shot with some foreground trees for effect. With no clock drive and two lenses, my options were limited!

As stated, I took these photos from Mt. Palomar while on business in San Diego. I remember driving up the steep, winding road that leads to the observatory. I noticed that there were quite a few other cars on the road (many more than would be normally expected on a road like this out in the middle of relative nowhere). However, "Comet Halley Fever" was upon us! I found a decent location along the road leading to Palomar Observatory. Within a short time, two dozen or so other people had gathered in curiosity. I suppose some had spotted the "abnormal" telescope I had. I noticed that several people had brought 2.4 inch refractors for viewing. One person was complaining that he couldn't see anything through his scope. I asked what magnification he was using, and of course it was the highest available (over 100x as I recall). I told him to switch to the LOWEST power (however he was skeptical about such a move). I helped him (and a few others) find Halley. The view in the 2.4 inch scope was acceptable, but not nearly as good as the view in the Astroscan. I showed a number of people the view in my "wimpy" 16 power Astroscan... they couldn't believe that a 16 power scope could outperform a 100 power scope! Undoubtedly, many families bought 2.4 inch telescopes during the comet craze (much to the delight of the marketers of such units). I'm sure most of those scopes are in attics or tag sales by now.

Comet Halley was in no way a "spectacle" in my opinion, certainly no comparison to Hyakutake. I think the average person expected to see a blazing fireball with a huge tail after the media hype. In fact, several people on Mt. Palomar that night had trouble seeing it with the naked eye even after I showed them exactly where it was! My expectations were more realistic, and although not the brightest comet I have ever seen, it was a decent comet. It was cool just to have seen an object that has so much history and mystique associated with it!

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