A short one night journey turned out to be a three day hunt for comet Neowise and more…
Day one: Starting at the black forest. At the Schwarzenbach-Talsperre, to be precise, 10 p.m. I just parked the car next to the reservoir ready for some night photography a strange glow was visible in the sky. Not thinking much off it I set off to the top of the dam. The higher up the dam and later in the evening, where night darkness would set in the stars, the flare became more visible with the naked eye. After some short research it turns out to be comet Neowise. Only visible from earth every 8600 years. Somehow lucky to be outside that evening 🙂
Milky Way and abandoned hotel Schwarzenbach
Day two: After a short but sweet night sleep at the lake side, this was going to be my remote working spot for today. With an awesome view!
In the pursuit of trying to get a better glimpse of comet Neowise the plan for the second evening: Be on top of the Merkurturm in Baden-Baden when the sun sets. From the tower you have a high and wide 360 degree view on the sky. Should be perfect to see the comet, right? Getting to the top of the 668 meter hill is easy by taking Merkur Funicular. Taking the last train up requires a little skill… press a button yourself to start the process. Or just wait for some people up doing the same works just as well. Getting to the top with the Funicular is a very smooth and steep ride. It takes about 10 min.
From the top of the hill it is a short 5 min. walk to the tower where you can take the elevator up. Then the waiting for darkness began. While the sun was setting, the sky changed from blue to yellow/gold and finally fire red. As you can see on the photos below it is quite misty and cloudy. In the end the weather got worse and due to the glow from the city Baden-Baden in the west it was practically impossible to see comet Neowise or any other star. Good I had ticked that box the day before.
At midnight I gave up and walked down the 4km track through the forest. Happy about my little lifesaving gear.
View over Baden-Baden
Day three from Luitpoldturm
Day three… well day three, had to be different compared to the first and second, especially since the hard learned lessen in Baden-Baden regarding light pollution. This time the area to look out from had to be dark. First idea was to check all observatories in the area. That was difficult because either they are to far out for a short evening trip or in the middle of or near a city. Like the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory, that you can visit here.
The best location would be west of Karlsruhe in the Pfalz where there are no large cities around. The Luitpodturm was found with very good ratings on Google (#everythingisratedongoogle), only a short hours drive by car, open 24/7 and easy close by parking almost in front of the tower.
I arrived there from Karlsruhe around 9 p.m. and was perfectly on time to see the sunset. Together with someone with the same idea we where waiting for the evening darkness to set and see the Neowise comet. Suddenly a boy came running up the tower, setting up his camera gear in a hurry. Just in time get a last glimpse of sunset. Obviously he planned to see the Neowise comet too. His father was not that fast and came a couple minutes later up to the tower. , doubling our group number.
Ready for the Golden Hour ?
Blue hour & Midnight
It got darker and then pitch black… by time, and more busy, too! Meanwhile small groups of people joined the top-turm-roof party existing of three people arrived, then one person, another two, this went on for a bit until in the complete darkness it was ‘gezellig’ as they would say in Dutch or ‘quite busy’. (Side note, info how to pronounce ‘gezellig’ can be found -> here). The wind started to pick up and the temperature started to drop to a chilly summer evening. Throughout the evening the comet was hardly visible and even more difficult to photograph due to the fast wind which made my camera move continuously even on a sturdy tripod. 8 seconds exposure felt like an eternity and cranking up the light sensitivity ISO values was not a preferred option.
The upside standing on top of a tower was that the other side, 180 degrees in the south/east direction, it was dark too with long visibility. With this darkness a patch of Milky Way became visible. Delivering perfect opportunities to photograph, see images below.
After all day three was a success, a completely different experience than planned for and meeting new like-minded people is always a plus. 🙂