A Comet Will Zoom Past Earth Tomorrow — Here's How to Capture the Perfect Photos

Get your tripods ready.

Comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS from June of 2017 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3
Photo: Courtesy of NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

On Wednesday, the comet known as K2 will make its closest approach to Earth — and while there's no need to worry about safety, your only concern should be getting a great photo of this spectacular celestial event.

According to Space.com, the comet is one of the farthest active ever spotted. It's also a relatively new one to us earthlings, having been spotted for the first time in 2017.

As for how close it will get, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says it will be 1.8 astronomical units from the center of the Earth. And just in case you're not up on your astronomical units, Space.com explains, an astronomical unit is about 93 million miles or the average distance between the sun and Earth. Scientists still aren't quite sure how big it is, but according to Earth Sky, the Hubble Space Telescope observations suggest it is likely about 11 miles across.

So it's tiny and far away, but that doesn't mean you can't see it, especially if you have the correct photo equipment. Here's what it says you need to capture this comet or any others that happen to fly through our planetary system.

The right lens

Unfortunately, your iPhone simply won't hack it. As Space.com says, a great camera body is good, but an excellent lens is vital. You'll need a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or lower to allow as much light in as possible. If you want to add in the landscape as part of your shot (say a nearby mountain range), you'll want a wide-angle lens. If you want as much detail as possible on the comet, try a longer focal length, though be careful as these can be tricky.

The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 is a great fit for those looking to capture detail, and the ​​Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra-Wide Angle Fixed Lens is a good place to start for those adding in the landscape.

An excellent tripod

There is zero chance your hands are stable enough to snap a photo of an object moving thousands of miles an hour while holding the shutter open for long periods of time to let the light in. Seriously, just forget it, and invest in a good tripod instead. This, Space.com says, is "essential to avoid blurry photos."

A good tripod should be adjustable, light enough to carry for a while, and sturdy enough to hold your equipment with ease. Though it's a bit of an investment, the Benro Rhino Carbon Fiber Zero Series Tripod is super lightweight and can still hold up to 22 pounds. It also converts into a monopod for versatile shooting.

A remote shutter

One more thing Space.com suggests is a remote shutter, which, again, will help minimize any motion blur on your photo. That's because even the act of your finger clicking the camera to take a photo can shake it just enough to throw off the image. Again, the remote shutter you get will depend on what type of camera you have but just look for one corresponding with your brand, like this Canon Wireless Remote. The other thing to try is checking out your DSLR's corresponding app, which may have wireless remote technology built in.

An extremely dark place

One more thing you really need to ensure you're maximizing your photography potential is an extremely dark location. Your best bet is to seek out a place as far away from city lights as possible, preferably in a Dark Sky park or reserve. This will help to ensure only the light of the stars and comets above shine through. If you need a little more help, there are also a few excellent apps to download, which will help to further up your astrophotography game. Try PhotoPills, which will help you track the stars and plot out a photo with the surrounding landscape. Astrospheric will help you track the weather so no pesky clouds get in the way, and SkyGuide maps out all the stars above so you'll know exactly what you're looking at before taking the photos.

And one more bonus tip: stay patient. Getting a great astrophotography photo can mean waiting around for just the right moment. And even if you don't get the right image, you can at least enjoy all that time in the great outdoors.

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