Photo samples: C/1975 V1
Comet West still rates as one of the most spectacular comets I have seen. Although my interest in astronomy began in July of 1965, I did not subscribe to magazines or news services until the early 1970s and subsequently missed comets Ikeya-Seki in 1965 and Bennett in 1970.
The comet passed closest to the sun in late February of 1975 and then burst into the morning sky of early March. The sky was cloudy for me until March 5. I looked out the window and saw stars that morning, so I grabbed the 6-inch reflector and went outside. The sky was indeed clear, but the edge of the cloud bank still filled the eastern horizon AND blocked the comet. I waited and waited as the edge slowly crept eastward. Soon the sky showed the first signs of brightening from twilight and I was disappointed I might not see the comet. So, I began sweeping the sky in that direction hoping to at least see the tail. My sweeping took me into the cloud bank itself and I suddenly found the comet...shining through the clouds! The clouds did finally move out of the way, but the tail was virtually wiped out by what was then bright morning twilight. I took one photograph. Since the splendor of the comet was hidden from view that morning, I was not prepared for what I would see the next morning.
On the morning of March 6, I woke up, looked out my bedrooms windows to the south and west, and again saw crystal-clear skies. I grabbed the reflector and went outside. Because of the arrangement of my parents' house I had to go out the front door. Trees lined the front yard to the east and completely blocked the sky, so I had to go around the house on the westward side in order to get to the backyard, which had few trees to the east. Since the comet was in the eastern sky, this was important! As I carried the telescope and entered the backyard something caught my eye to the east. I turned to see comet West hanging above the horizon, with a large tail extending over 20° upwards. The fact that I did not know the comet would be this spectacular was an unexpected surprize that sent chills down my spine. This was my first experience with a "great" comet, which is why it is still special to me today.
This image was taken on 1976 March 14 at 11:15 UT. This was a 2-minute exposure using black and white Tri-X film and a 50mm lens. The camera was tracked with the stars, so that nearby trees blurred.
This image was taken on 1976 March 25 at 09:00 UT. This was a 1-minute exposure using black and white Tri-X film and a 50mm lens. The camera was tracked with the stars, so that nearby trees blurred.
This image was taken on 1976 April 2 at 08:15 UT. This was a 10-second exposure using black and white Tri-X film and a 135mm lens. The camera was simply sitting on a tripod, which is why the stars are slightly elongated.