Monday, March 11, 2013

PanSTARRS - SEE IT TONIGHT! (ok or Tues maybe Wed)

So, What are you doing tonight, say 7:45-ish (EST) ? The comet Pan-STARRS will be passing closest to the Sun today and if it is going to make a splash, tonight’s the night! It first came into the view of the sky on Friday evening, but as the sun sets and the crescent moon rises, PanSTARRS should make its big reveal! You want to make sure and look around 45 minutes after sunset or the sky will be too bright. Where do you look? Low in the western sky and close to where you see the Sun.

Of course in the NY metro area today it is currently rather overcast so that is a problem. Still, with PanSTARRS at its closest to the Sun it is undergoing a rapid temperature change which results in the glorious tail (or Coma Tail) we associate with comets. The stream of dust reflects the sunlight and the gases glow from ionization. The enormous force exerted on the coma from the Sun’s radiation pressure and solar wind will result in the coma to form pointing away from the Sun.

Should it be overcast and you are unable to see the comet, don’t fret! Just clear your calendar for Tuesday or Wednesday night when the crescent moon will be close to the comet’s tail. Depending how bright the tail is, the moon may just be silhouetted by its glow. If you are viewing through a lens – binocular or telescope, you have chances to view PanSTARRS all the way through April

And for those of you with telescopes PanSTARRS will be passing the Andromeda Galaxy on April 3rd providing an excellent photo-op.

IF YOU MISS IT worry not; ...Their calling it ‘The Comet of the Century’. ISON appears November 28th and we will find out then if it can live up to expectations, or is a dud. (It just might be bright enough to be seen in the daytime!)HAPPY VIEWING!!!

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