Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS viewing opportunities

UPDATE - March 13:  I got a chance to see PanSTARRS last night and have updated the viewing tips accordingly.  I could not see it without binoculars, but with them I could make it out once I knew where to look.  This was in a subdivision with street lights, but it helped to move away from the lights a bit.  The comet is rather "fuzzy" when you spot it, but there is a definite "head" on the lower end of it with the tail extending up.  It is not a shooting star, so you won't actually see it move. Tonight, find the crescent moon around 7:30-7:45, then look below the moon about the width of your fist when held at arm's length. Good luck!

Original post - March 12:

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) over Uruguay on March 2, 2013. Credit: Sky & Telescope / Ruben Perez de Paula
Until yesterday, I hadn't really mentioned the viewing opportunities for comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) as we've had so much cloud cover it wasn't worth it.  However - that changes the next few days! The only fly in the ointment appears to be tonight with a few high clouds possible this evening, especially if you're viewing from north MS, but we'll cross our fingers!

Where to look in the coming weeks to see PanSTARRS

Viewing information

When: 30-45 minutes after sunset is best. Sunset is at 7:05pm, so roughly 7:30-7:45pm.
Where to look: Very low in the western sky. Get away from buildings, trees, and hills that obstruct a view of the horizon.
Visual guides: March 12 - look just to the left of the crescent moon. March 13 - below the crescent moon, by about the width of your fist when held at arm's length.  March 14 - about 2 fists below and slightly right of the moon.
What to look for: see the pic above. It'll be head-down with a tail trailing.
Can I see it without visual aids? Binoculars or even a telescope are highly recommended. Time-lapse photography with the proper settings will also likely capture it.

More information on the comet sighting can be found in this Sky and Telescope article or check out SpaceWeather.com.  This will be the only viewing for this comet EVER due to it's orbit taking it into deep space.

If you happen to see it, let us know on our social media channels below.  You can also follow those for the latest forecast conditions for this week's viewing opportunities.

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