Readers’ wildlife photos

On this site, astronomy counts as “wildlife”, and readers Leo Glenn and Mark Jones sent some lovely pictures of Comet Neowise, which I haven’t been able to see. Leo and Mark’s words are indented; click photos to enlarge them.

First, photos from Leo:

While these technically aren’t wildlife photos (well, one might qualify), I thought your readers might enjoy these pictures I took of Comet Neowise, on the evening of July 21 from my front yard in western Pennsylvania. I am just a hobbyist photographer, and this was my first attempt at night sky photography. After some failed and frustrating efforts, I was able to get these photos, which turned out better than I expected. The hardest part was focusing the camera when I could see nothing in the viewfinder. I thought I could just set the focus at infinity, but when I did that the photos were blurry. In the end, I pointed the camera at the brightest object, which happened to be Jupiter, and was able to get an acceptable (though not perfect) focus. For those interested, I used a Nikon D7100 DSLR with a 35 mm lens, at f-1.8 and a 30-second exposure. I forgot to set the ISO, so the camera did that automatically, which was a mistake, but I was able to correct for it later in Photoshop. And I used the timer so my finger on the shutter release wouldn’t blur the photo.

The red line is an airplane. I didn’t notice it until after I pressed the shutter release.

Eventually, clouds started to roll in, but that also provided some interesting photo opportunities. This is the only photo that might qualify as a wildlife photo. You can see a couple fireflies (Photinus and/or Photuris sp.), one on the left zooming rather close to the camera, and one at the bottom of the photograph toward the right,  just over the top of a tree.

Finally, I couldn’t resist pointing the camera up to take a picture of the starry sky, and was stunned by how many stars, invisible to the naked eye, appeared in the photo. I couldn’t help hearing Bill Shatner’s voice: “Space. The final frontier.”
Two photos from Mark Jones, who says:

You may want to add these to the pile of Neowise photos; it becomes rather compulsive to try to capture this excellent ‘omen’ for posterity, even though many have already!

One is taken from my kitchen window, and the other shows the comet above the house from the driveway.


  1. GBJames
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink


  2. Claudia Baker
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Truly awesome.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Ah, glorious!

    It is exhilarating to observe the objects out there – the comet is just that much more so! So many things happen- it is busy!

    … I guess if the stars are all clear, the sky is dark, then the comet is out of view – hence all the sunset photos out there.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Nah the comet just becomes visible after sunset.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Nah the comet just becomes visible after sunset.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted July 28, 2020 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        What I mean is : is (was?) the comet visible all night? I don’t think so…

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          No it sets like the stars or moon or sun but it is visible for any hours. A month or so ago you had to get up just before dawn to see it from my location so you can imagine that I didn’t see it then as I’m not a morning person.

  4. rickflick
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Foregrounds certainly add depth to these shots. The last image by Mark is an example. I did two photos, one with a few tree limbs and one with the lights of the town along the horizon.

  5. Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Stunning shots of NEOWISE. Much better than seeing it with the naked eye, or even binoculars.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I really enjoy the RWP’s space photos.

  7. Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see these!

  8. Posted July 24, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    These are great! It must have been exhilarating to spot the comet and capture it so nicely. Thanks, Leo and Mark!

  9. Posted July 25, 2020 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Those are excellent, dude. After the insects the space pics are my favorites here.
    I grew up and lived in Melbourne (Australia) and Tokyo, moving to NYC when I was in my early 20s and I rarely leave big cities so I almost never see the true night sky, spectacular as it is.
    D.A., NYC

  10. Posted July 25, 2020 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone else see what might have beeb a ‘shooting star’ or asteroid on Saturday at 10:51pm? I was looking for the comet below the Big Dipper and saw a fuzzy ball. Then there was a streak of light going very fast along a horizontal plane, and then it disappeared.

    • Posted July 25, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s this Saturday, July 25, I’m talking about.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 25, 2020 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Possibly the Space Station. Very bright. It passes by there frequently. I saw it fly by a couple of nights ago. But, it doesn’t disappear. It just shimmys over the horizon.

      • Posted July 25, 2020 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! That makes sense.

      • Posted July 25, 2020 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        But why would the space station look like a streak of light (much like a meteor)?

        • rickflick
          Posted July 25, 2020 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

          Sound like a meteor.

          • Posted July 26, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            Based on what ThyroidPlanet posted, it is more likely the ISS! I checked the charts for viewing times and it matches up. Will look for it tonight towards the NW around 10:10pm EDT.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:35 am | Permalink

        ISS and other such satellites disappear once in earth’s shadow. I’ve eeen a number since the comet viewing started. If it is low, maybe it is a short visibility. But usually I catch it high enough it’s visible for many minutes. NASA has ISS alerts for your area and there’s an iPhone app ISS Spotter that has a map etc.

        But I have also seen short horizontal objects that move slow – I guess they are meteors.

        It’s azi how many things are up there. Give it time, there’ll be many objects. There’s even used rockets that are logged in planetarium software.

        By the way – the distinctive flavor of BBQ Doritos is, most likely, smoked paprika.

        • Posted July 26, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Thanks very much for your input! I’ll look again tonight towards NW and below the Big Dipper around 10:10pm EDT, and if I see it again, then it could well be the ISS! To see this fast streak that lasts several seconds is almost as exciting as seeing the comet.

        • Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

          No luck spotting ISS on Sunday night. Could see the Big Dipper but closer in, there was some cloud cover. Might have just missed the fly-past too.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      ISS Spotter by Mediapilot

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      It was probably ISS.

      • Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think it was, based on the viewing chart (with dates, times and location) posted online by NASA. It was very thrilling to see such a brilliant object fly past overhead in the night sky. It was a very fast moving and distinct streak of light, and seemed much brighter and bigger than any meteor I’ve seen.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 27, 2020 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

          I actually got a pic of it streaming through the comet. I didn’t know where the comet was so clicked the shutter for 6 seconds as ISS streamed through making a red line next to a blurry comet.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted July 28, 2020 at 6:34 am | Permalink

            It’s great you got a photo! Red is the color of some lights on some planes. I saw a photo of the NEOWISE comet with a red line which the photographer said was a plane. I’ve never seen an artificial satellite any color other than a blue/white star-like color. But, perhaps it can be different colors in a sunset? Never saw that.

            Also as to speed (Smokedpaprika) : ISS isn’t “very fast”, in my estimate. It appears like a plane. I don’t think the velocity changes.

            Meteors though can be fast, but also slow I guess!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

              I think it was red because it was sunset and reflecting the sun still. Normally ISS is very bright white and it moves quickly then fizzles in earth shadow. The Iridium satellites are very bright too. Their flares are something worth watching for.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

                If so, it’d be the pure white light coming to the observer through atmospheric dust… the angle would have to be very low – I have never seen the ISS at such an angle. In fact I’m keen to up my sky gazing by finding good areas to increase the horizon view.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

                It’s basically just reflecting sunlight. Iridium flares are even more profound.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

                Yes but I mean the Rayleigh scattering by low angle particulates below the position of the ISS removes the blues and let’s the reds through to the observer on the Earth’s surface…. actually I think that would explain these bright meteors I’ve seen are a bright blue/white color … dare I say green – they are burning in the atmosphere. In fact I saw one in a sunset recently!

                What exactly are Iridium… what you said? I’ll have to look it up…

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

                Yeah but it is rarely red. This was only at sunset. Usually it’s white. But of course our eyes can’t see much colour at night anyway. If you get an app like Sky Safari or many of the others, you can set it to alert you when ISS is rising near you as well as iridiums or any other satellites. In very dark skies you often see fainter fast moving satellites throughout the night. I see them out here a lot. There is so much stuff in various orbits.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

                “In very dark skies you often see fainter fast moving satellites throughout the night”

                Indeed! It’s … it’s something … seeing human made objects doing things in the middle of the night… then there’s the geostationary ones for GPS that I don’t know how to find by dead reckoning… short of knowing a star chart…, Sky Safari, you say….

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 28, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                Yeah you can find the geostationary ones using Sky Safari as well but those are hard and I’ve not seen them. They’d be like faint stars I imagine. There are various free and paid versions of Sky Safari. I bought the pro because it can work with my telescope (which I have yet to use it with) and it comes with a bigger database of objects.

          • Posted July 28, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            I’d love to see that!

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