Veteran astrophotographer Terry Hancock was pleasantly surprised to learn the uninvited guest in his recent photo was not an aircraft, but rather Comet Lemmon soaring across a nebula-filled night sky.
The image features M52 Cluster (top center), the Bubble Nebula NGC7635 (left of center), the emission and reflection nebula NGC 7538 (lower central area) and Sharpless 157, also known as the Lobster Claw Nebula (bottom left), and Comet Lemmon (upper right).
Hancock took the image over 8.5 hours on July 14 and 15 from DownUnder Observatory in Fremont Mich. To capture the photo, Hancock used a QHY11 monochrome CCD camera, QHY Color Filter Wheel, TMB92SS F5.5 APO Refractor with TS 2.5" Field Flatteneroptics, Paramount GT-1100S German Equatorial Mount (with MKS 4000), and image acquisition software Maxim DL5.
Alex Gibbs of the Mount Lemmon survey in Arizona discovered Comet Lemmon, or C/2012 F6, in March 2012. Since its discovery, the comet has become increasingly brighter in the night sky as it makes its way through the solar system.
Comet Lemmon is officially known as Comet C/2012 F6 and is one of several comets that have graced the night sky in 2013. Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) gave stargazers a celestial show earlier this year in March, and the Comet ISON — officially dubbed C/2012 S1 (ISON) — is expected to be at its best in the night sky in late November.