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Friday, March 15, 2013

COMET PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) OVER NOVA SCOTIA

Location:  North Sydney, Nova Scotia  Ferry Terminal

Date Time:  March 14, 2013 1930-2030hrs

Weather:  Clear, slight breeze, 7 degrees Celcius.

Attendence:  Myself

Equipment:  Mounted Canon Rebel DSLR with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses.

Report:  Have been following reports on Comet Panstarrs through SpaceWeather.com and Astronomy.com for the last couple of weeks.  The Comet has only been visible in the Southern Hemisphere up until about March 8/13 when it crossed the plane and started to become visible from the Northern Hemisphere.  According to reports, the comet was suppose to make a spectacular conjunction with a thin crescent Moon on March 13/13  but, alas, the weather was terrible for the whole east coast all the way to Ontario!  This would have made an awesome picture, but that's observing!  We cannot control the weather.  Its doubly tragic, because a  conjunction like that may not happen again in our lifetime.  From the places around earth where the weather cooperated, there were reports that the comet had not yet become visible to the naked eye, just in binos, telescopes and time exposure shots through cameras.  This information was important for this observing session, because it was then known that the comet may not be naked eye visible.  Very good to know!

Note:  The official name of Comet Pan-Starrs is C/2011 L4.  C means that the comet is not periodic(not going to return within 200 years)  the 2011 is the year it was discovered...the L signifies the month in 2011 it was discovered(months are divided into two so Jan would be AB, A being the first half of the month, B being the second half)  so this make Pan-Starrs discovered during the second half of June, 2011.  The 4 signifies the number of comets discovered during this half month...so this would make Comet Panstarrs the 4th comet discovered during the second half of June, 2011 and it will not be returning within 200 years.  Obviously they are doing this because so many comets are being discovered now, with the amazing ability of amature astronomers getting better all the time.  If interested check out this website http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/lists/CometResolution.html this is the site that I referenced for comet naming.

Knowing that the comet was probably not going to be visible, I captured many images of the western sky with time exposure shots hoping to pick up the comet but didn't see it immediately in the camera view screen.  The comet didn't show up until after 2010hrs in an image, that's when I first saw it and that was my first time ever capturing an image of a comet!  This after many years of trying!  Once located, the higher magnification was possible which really brought out the comet in the images, but by this time the comet had gone down behind a tree.  After all the images were downloaded on the computer, it was seen that the comet showed up on a bunch of images, but very faintly.  At no time during this observing session was the comet visible to the naked eye, although, with the massive amount of light pollution from the ferry terminal, it was highly unlikely to see it naked eye.  Actually, at the time of writing this report(March18,2013) the comet has only very rarely been reported to have been seen naked eye, which means that one still needs a telescope, binos or long exposure shot to see it.






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