Comet C2011 L4 (PanSTARRS)

posted: 1752 days ago, on Wednesday, 2013 Feb 06 at 22:50
tags: astronomy, star charts, astrophotography, Southern Sky Highlights 2013, comets.

The time has come to bid farewell to Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS), at least from our southern hemisphere vantage point. Now, keep your browser aimed steadily at spaceweather.com for images from stargazers on the other side of the planet. Meanwhile, Comet Lemmon can still be enjoyed in the evening sky.

Further down this page, you can browse photo galleries by Kos Coronaios, Zarina Ebrahim, Wim Filmalter, Ed Foster, Mauritz Geyser, Willie Koorts, Greg Roberts, Auke Slotegraaf and Oleg Toumilovitch.

Last view from South Africa

2013.03.09 Imaged by Mauritz Geyser from Somerset West, showing the comet just under one degree above the distant horizon.

2013.03.07 Imaged by Oleg Toumilovitch from Johannesburg.

In August last year, Kos Coronaios imaged L4 PanSTARRS while it was "a dim patch in Libra". Now, L4 PanSTARRS is an obvious early-evening object.

Seiichi Yoshida's "Weekly Information about Bright Comets" page shows that it is currently brighter than 4th magnitude.

Tim Cooper, Director of the ASSA Comets, Asteroid and Meteor Section, notes in "CAMnotes 2013 No. 1" that the comet is visible above the morning horizon as twilight dawns, adding that observation will become a problem by mid-February (on its way to perihelion on March 10). So get it now while you still can...

Meanwhile, Comet Lemmon can also be spotted, higher up and to the south. A finder chart showing both comets appears below.

Comet PanSTARRS was discovered on 2011 June 06 from Hawaii, and is expected to reach about 3rd magnitude for northern-hemisphere observers (downgraded from earlier predictions of -1 mag).

Thanks to Willem Buys for alerting me about PanSTARRS - I would otherwise have been oblivious until Kos sent the first pics :-)

Finder chart for comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS

March 03-08 at 20:15

Finding the comets soon after sunset

Comet PanSTARRS is visible low in the west soon after sunset. To locate it, start looking as soon as dusk falls, and find Achernar, the super-bright star that the South Cross points to. From Achernar, look down and a bit to the right for Ankaa, and then a little down and a lot to the right for Diphda.

Note that each evening, Ankaa, Diphda and comet PanSTARRS makes a recognisable triangle - use this geometric shape to pin-point the comet, which appears as a reasonably bright star to the naked eye. In binoculars, its tail is obvious.

Generate your own ephemeris at JPL's Horizon website.

Gallery

Images by Kos Coronaios

2013.03.05

2013.03.05

2013.03.05

Imaged from the top of the Soutpansberg Mountains, overlooking Louis Trichardt.

2013.03.04

2013.03.04

2013.03.03

2013.03.03

2013.03.03

2013.03.03

Both comets, Lemmon and PanSTARRS, are shown in this image by Kos Coronaios.

Images by Zarina Ebrahim

2013.03.05 @20:53

Zarina imaged the comet from Camp's Bay, Cape Town, using a Nikon D60 and a 150-mm lens at f/4.5, for this 20-second exposure at ISO 100.

Images by Wim Filmalter

2013.03.03 @20:12

Prime focus, 200-mm BikeScope, Nikon D5100, ISO 5000, 2-sec exposure.

2013.03.03 @20:25

Nikon D5100, ISO 1600, 10-sec, 68-mm f/5.6 lens.

Images by Ed Foster

2013.03.02 @20:28

Comet PanSTARRS in the urban light spill. Nikon D5000, 3-second exposure, 18-mm f/3.5 at ISO 1250.

2013.03.02 @20:29

Comet PanSTARRS. Nikon D5000, 3-second exposure, 200-mm f/5.6 at ISO 1250.

Images by Mauritz Geyser

2013.03.09

The last view of PanSTARRS from South Africa? Mauritz captured this image on March 09 when the comet was barely 57-arcminutes above the horizon.

2013.03.08

"I thought after the 5th of March, with the few days of cloudy weather we had, that I would not be able to see C/2011 L4 again," Mauritz writes. "I was lucky to still see the comet yesterday evening very low over the horizon, between the distant clouds and mountains." The image above was made at 20:14 SAST with a 214-mm lens at f/5.0, ISO 800 and 2-second exposure time, from Somerset West.

2013.03.05

Taken 5 March 2013, 18h11 to 18h12 UT. 21x 1-sec images stacked with Registax. 300-mm lens, f/5.7, ISO 800.

2013.03.04

Ten 1-sec images (300-mm lens at f/5.7, ISO 1600) stacked with RegiStax.

2013.03.04

Comet PanSTARRS over Simons Town as seen from Somerset West. 1-sec exposure at ISO 1600, 70-mm lens at f/4.0

2013.03.03

Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS over Flase Bay as seen from Somerset West.

2013.03.03

Comet PanSTARRS. Stack of seven 2.5-sec frames, taken with a 300-mm f/5.6 lens and ISO 100.

2013.03.03

"Comet C/2011 L4 (Panstarrs) seen over the night light on Simons Town seen from Somerset West. FL=70mm, Exposure=15sec, ISO= 400 and F-stop=4.0"

Images by Willie Koorts

2013.03.04

Comet PanSTARRS, imaged by Willie Koorts from Wellington.

2013.03.04

Comet PanSTARRS, imaged by Willie Koorts from Wellington.

Images by Greg Roberts

2013.03.02 @19:56

Comet PanSTARRS, just 10 degrees above the horizon. 102-mm f/5 Skywatcher, FLI8300M CCD camera.

2013.03.02 @19:57

Comet PanSTARRS, just 10 degrees above the horizon. 102-mm f/5 Skywatcher, FLI8300M CCD camera.

Images by Auke Slotegraaf

2013.03.03

If Comet PanSTARRS was an aeroplane, it would have looked like this.

2013.03.03 @20:14

Comet PanSTARRS from the beach, looking across False Bay. Imaged at 20:14. EOS 60D, 50-mm f/6.3, ISO 1600, 3-sec.

2013.03.03 @20:24

Comet PanSTARRS heading for Simon's Town, as seen from The Strand. EOS 60D, 135-mm f/5.6, ISO 2500, 4-sec.

2013.03.03 @20:38

Comet PanSTARRS setting over False Bay. The bright lights are those of Simon's Town. Imaged at 20:38 in a 9m/s sand-blast. EOS 60D, 135-mm f/5.6, ISO 1600, 4-sec.

2013.03.02 @20:25

Comet PanSTARRS, now at about 3rd magnitude, is an obvious star very low in the west soon after sunset, competing against urban light pollution in this image taken from Somerset West.

2013.03.02 @20:03

Comet PanSTARRS, at 20:03, against a bright dusk sky.

2013.02.08 @05:02

Comet PanSTARRS, despite its low situation in the morning sky, is quite apparent, even on short-exposure photos. The image above is a crop from a stack of 25 subs (3-sec each at ISO 640) with a 135-mm lens at f/5.6. The field of view is 53' x 35' and the bright star at bottom right is 7.8-mag HD 191796.

2013.02.08 @05:13

Early-morning view looking south-east. The beautiful crescent Moon, below the stars of Sagittarius, is dipping into the Milky Way. Near the centre of the image is Corona Australis. The cross-hairs marks the position of Comet PanSTARRS, which is quite easy to see. On even a few-second exposure it shows up as a star of at least 7th magnitude.

2013.02.07 @05:02

This is a crop (measuring 9 x 6) from a stacked image made of 25 6-second exposures (ISO 320) taken with a 50-mm lens at f/1.8. The bright star at the left edge is iota Sagittari, and the brighter star at bottom-right is alpha Indi.

2013.02.07 @05:02

This is a crop (measuring 3.6 wide) from a stacked image made of 25 6-second exposures (ISO 320) taken with a 50-mm lens at f/1.8. The comet's broad fan-shaped tail is clearly visible. In this image, the comet appears brighter than 7th magnitude.

Images by Oleg Toumilovitch

2013.03.07

Imaged by Oleg Toumilovitch from Johannesburg.

Oleg Toumilovitch captured this lovely image of the comet struggling with cloud, looking out west of the Randburg CBD. Oleg writes: "I've spent an evening before this one on the roof parking of a shopping centre, waiting for the clouds to clear in the right place at least for couple of minutes, but unfortunately this was wasting of time.

"The next day 7 March the sky afternoon was clear everywhere, except above Western horizon. At least this was promising. So, I went to the same roof parking with all my portable gear. Everything was ready in time, but there were still clouds. Suddenly the gaps between them started increasing. I knew exactly where the comet should be, but it wasn't there.

"At 19:26 I took a wide angle image with an 80 mm lens - nothing. Looked through binoculars - nothing. Few seconds later looked again - the comet was there. I guess what happened, the sky just got a little darker and maybe some thin layer of haze disappeared within a minute.

"19:27 - Took an image with the same settings - there was the bright comet.

"Took few images with 180 mm lens and when the comet nucleus had been covered by the cloud, I've decided to replace the lens with my favourite 400 mm Sigma lens. It took not longer then 10 seconds, but unfortunately the comet never reappeared from behind the clouds."

nothing more to see. please move along.