Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS)

It was discovered by the near-Earth asteroid discovery program, ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) on 2020 June 27 and reached perihelion on 2020 October 25. Closest approach to Earth occurred on 2020 November 14 at 0.358AU and estimated magnitude was around 8. During that time it was moving north against the stars of Orion and it provided many photo opportunities being found in the same wide angle field with the Orion Nebula and the belt stars, for instance. 

Timing was fortunate. Easing of local Covid-19 travel restrictions allowed travel away from the heavy light-pollution of Melbourne just at the time of closest approach to Earth and New Moon, so I was able to view it under very dark, cloud-free skies and excellent seeing. In 12x80 binoculars it was easily found as a large fuzzy object near Bellatrix.


2020 November 14, 14:30UT: photographed against the stars of Orion when around magnitude 8. Canon 5D II + 500mm lens with 1.4X extender (fl = 700mm), at f5.6, on a Synta NEQ6 Pro mount tracking the sky. Sixty-four minutes of 120 sec exposures stacked and combined to optimise the comet and the star field; field of view 3x2, north is to the left. There may be a hint of tail directed towards the upper right of the frame. Bellatrix is the bright bluish star. 

Comet Home