The picture above was taken in May of 1976 using Kodachrome color film. I have provided it here in black and white, obviously. I took the picture with a 50 mm lens on a single lens reflex camera. It was somewhere around four in the morning as I remember. The picture, as most pictures of Comet West, does not do justice to what we saw — not even close.
The “we” I am referring to is an old friend from college, Mike Stupinski (Hi, Mike!) and I. Mike also wound up working for Hamilton Standard, as I did. We knew that the comet was supposed to be pretty spectacular, and Mike stayed over at my house the night before so we could observe it together. At the time, Wendy and I, plus the children, lived in a modest house in the hills of East Hartland, CT. To the east we had an expansive view of the Connecticut River valley, ideal for observing the eastern sky.
The view of Comet West that morning was indeed spectacular, much more so than either Mike or I had expected. The sun was not yet up, but there was some light in the sky. We should have gotten up earlier. At the time, I owned an eight inch diameter telescope, but it couldn’t begin to show the expansive image as well as a simple camera could,and certainly not as well as seen by the naked eye. Comet West literally filled the northeast sky. The tail was much wider and longer when seen by our unaided eyes only — no camera, no binoculars, no telescope.
Unfortunately, Comet West broke apart during its passage. So, it will probably never be the same again.