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March 11, 2013

SMOD Update: Finding Comet PANSTARRS

Nailed it. Gif, video and awful CAC graphic below.

PANSTARRS as captured by STEREO-B's HI-Camera (Credit NASA/STEREO/NRL)

With help from a friend and my wife, we caught it last night in Llano, in a setting perhaps more appropriate for the Hills Have Eyes. It was barely visible to the naked eye, and that lasted all of about five minutes before it set below the horizon. Gold-white in color with a bright coma and spawning a fanned tail, it made for a great sight in the telescope at low power and our cheap binoculars. Sadly, no photos, as I have a horrid blackberry and no camera. Here's some video of it setting near Santa Fe, New Mexico yesterday:

Video by Michael Zeiler

For those of you further north and with less-than-ideal seeing conditions, take heart: you still have a good shot at finding it tomorrow night. Yes you could try to guestimate and scan around for it this evening, but tomorrow brings a thin crescent moon which makes the hunt a helluva lot easier.

So tomorrow night, about a half-hour after sunset, walk out with some binoculars and find due west. Not kinda west, not south by south west, due west. Find the moon. Put your hand out at arms' length, hold up three fingers as shown in the diagram below, and then aim your binoculars for the poorly-drawn comet. At lower latitudes the comet will appear higher, while those of you in the frozen north may just barely sneak a peak.


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posted by CAC at 09:34 PM

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