The big APM 150 finally got to go comet hunting last night.
I rolled it out of the shop about sunset last night, as the sky had cleared nicely, and the wind that had blown all day was calming. I picked a spot to set up that would give a good view to the W-NW. Farther North there was a tree blocking the view, but according to Sky Safari, Comet NEOWISE should have been West of the tree.
As soon as the sun was well below the horizon, I began looking with unaided eyes at the general area where the comet should be located. No luck, so began scanning with the APM 150, with the 30mm UFF's installed. Still could not find the comet, so went back inside and brought out the Canon 18X50 IS binocular.
After getting new Az and Alt readings from Sky Safari, and checking them outside with the compass on my iPhone, I began scanning with the Canon 18X50. Again no luck, so walked out to the end of the driveway which provided a clear view all of the way from West to North. Re-checked the iPhone compass using the N-S fence line at the end of the driveway. Compass was right on. Established new landmarks using compass bearing provided by Sky Safari. Scanned the whole area carefully, but no comet.
By now it was getting dark enough that I was sure the comet should be visible, based on my naked eye sighting Saturday morning. I got a mechanical inclinometer that I had in the shop and found that it just fit the groove in the carrying handle of the APM 150, so set it in that groove, inclined the bino to +12 degrees, as indicated by Sky Safari, aligned the Az of the bino using the compass, and carefully looked at the entire FOV. No comet to be seen.
After a quick scan with the 150, of the entire immediate area indicated by Sky Safari, I decided that Sky Safari must be providing an inaccurate location for the comet.
To get a wider view farther North, I moved the dolly carrying the tripod, mount, and APM 150, another +/- 30 feet out the driveway. Began scanning again, concentrating on the area farther North, that had been hidden by the tree. Suddenly, there it was, in the edge of the FOV!
The comet was several degrees North of the Az given by Sky Safari, and maybe a bit lower. It also appeared much more diffuse than when I had last seen it on Saturday morning, with the tail being shorter and wider. This would partially explain why I didn't pick it up using the Canon 18X50, plus the sky was lighter earlier in the evening. I think it was about 10:30 PM when I finally spotted it with the 150.
An interesting side note is that although the sky had mostly cleared at sundown, as the evening got later, very dark opaque clouds began forming in the area where I was searching for the comet. There was a large area of clear sky farther West leading me to believe the comet would be in the clear, then suddenly there would be significantly large black clouds scudding right to left through the area. These clouds were forming very rapidly, but thankfully were also moving quickly out of the way. By the time I quit observing the comet, the whole sky was mostly obscured by these opaque clouds, and I could only catch occasional short views of the comet through quickly moving holes.
It is slightly puzzling to me, why Sky Safari had the wrong coordinates for the comet, as they had just updated some of the information about it within the past few days. Last night they listed its magnitude as +2.
Although not as spectacular as Saturday morning through the Lunt 100 bino, I'm glad I saw NEOWISE through the APM 150. It has now had at least some success hunting a comet.
I tried briefly to spot Comet NEOWISE beginning at about 4:30 this morning, using the Canon 18X50 IS, but couldn't find it. The sky was clear and it should have been easily visible. This makes me wonder if it is not fading rapidly?