Comet PANSTARRS flyby
March 9, 2013 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I recommend, they seem to always have the latest info on transient local astronomical phenomenon.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of my most memorable experiences of astronomy was while using the Anglo-Australian Telescope. It's a bit of a beast - outclassed by more recent 8-10m diameter telescopes but still big at 3.9m and on a monster equatorial mount that's quite a sight (and engineering-wise impressive - there's a reason bigger telescopes have gone back to the alt-az mounts that are very much inferior for smaller scopes). Comet McNaught was in the sky and clouds were preventing our intended survey of distant galaxies.
We had a genuinely big telescope at our disposal but it was far better standing out on the observatory balcony with a pair of binoculars getting lucky with the clouds not obscuring a really fantastic view.
These things don't need any amazing equipment to see something special - get it while it's there!

(Could have done without the outsize huntsman spider between me and the coffee machine though...)
posted by edd at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Damn you, northern German weather!!!
posted by chillmost at 3:52 PM on March 9, 2013

Or as shall be calling it, comet PANTSSTARS, because I cannot read properly and because pants are funny.
posted by maryr at 6:06 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw the comet briefly this evening through 10 x 50 binoculars. There's not much of a window for spotting it between when the twilight sky gets dark enough for it be visible and when it sets (which in my case meant it setting into a cloud bank above the western horizon). It was hard to pick out, but I saw a tail on it that was about 1/2 degree long. I ran inside to get my spouse, but neither of us spotted it after that.
posted by Numenius at 7:58 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

We looked for it, but it was either too early, too late, we looked in the wrong place, or it was already obscured by the hills to our west.
posted by rtha at 9:37 PM on March 9, 2013

I missed Thursday night with ideal conditions, but went out Friday night when there were already too many clouds in the western skies here. No dice. Viewing opportunities should be better next week, but there are only a few days of maximal naked-eye visibility and your local weather needs to cooperate.
posted by dhartung at 11:23 PM on March 9, 2013

Do not taunt Comet PANSTARRS.
posted by Samizdata at 12:45 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Comet PANSTARRS may be a little bit of a challenge to find without a pair of binoculars, but there is something intimately satisfying to see it with your own two eyes. If you have a good viewing spot and good weather, it will be like the Sword of Gryffindor, it should present itself to anyone who is worthy."
- Amy Mainzer, "the principal investigator of NASA's NEOWISE mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and self-described cosmic icy dirtball fan."
posted by ChuraChura at 11:15 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just by happenstance, we booked ourselves for a McDonald Observatory Star Party several months back, before I'd even heard about this, for this Tuesday night. I have a 13-year-old son whose life ambition is to be an astronomer & we're going to be at the top of the hill in the darkest place in the continental US for the comet & crescent moon. Crazy luck.

I took a break from packing to leave town in the morning to see if there was a thread about this -- I am absolutely giddy with joy right now, and loaded for bear. 3 cameras, new tripod, new zoom lens, BRING ON THE COMET!
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

It was only very faintly visible from Austin tonight -- took me a while to spot it with the binoculars & it wasn't exactly a naked-eye object, though my kid could see it. I managed a few decent photos.

Darker skies will be nice later this week.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:14 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here it is from west Texas.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:54 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very nice. No luck here; there's July-type fog out there tonight.
posted by rtha at 9:57 PM on March 11, 2013

Well, the upside is you don't have to live in Texas. Should be viewable for another week, at least, though - hope you get a chance. Tomorrow's the big night, With the moon & all.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:21 PM on March 11, 2013

All hail West Texas.

Wrong thread?
posted by maryr at 4:29 PM on March 12, 2013

No hail - clear skies, in fact. Here's the comet and the moon.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:10 PM on March 12, 2013

nice shot, devils rancher!
posted by maggieb at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2013

posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on March 13, 2013

Even in my light-polluted suburb I managed to catch it!
posted by bondcliff at 5:42 PM on March 13, 2013

One last one, Wednesday evening. It seems to be getting rapidly dimmer from here.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2013

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