Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS over the South Hills

Comet PanSTARRS has arrived in our skies. It's one of the nicest
we've had in the last couple years but will require clear skies and
a low, unobstructed view of the northwest horizon.

Keep up with the latest observing info on S&T's page:

What to expect...
HERE'S MY NOTES from my first view of the comet:

It took until around 8:15 PM EDT before I could pick it up. Sunset was around 7:26 or so; beautiful clear sky but a full 12 degrees or more of horizon-murk persisted the whole time. It was only about 8 degrees off the horizon when I located it and about 5-10 degrees north of due west. 

I was using my 20x80 Celestron Binocs on heavy studio-style photo-tripod. Observing site: my 3rd floor window at my home along the ridgetop of Brookline. My view from that window gives me nearly 180 degrees of unobstructed SW/W/NW horizon which I confirmed as virtually Zero-degrees altitude by using a finely graduated pendulum-protractor squared on the center-axle  of my 20x80's. 

 Watched it dim in and out as the layers of horizon-murk passed between me and it. Tracked it down to just under 5 degrees. I can't imagine that dark-sky sites would be worth the trouble; far more important here will be skies that run dead-clear down from 10 degrees through the last 5 degrees to the horizon. 

Looks like a comet, albeit wedge-shaped, not just a fuzz-patch.

Assessing it from this session vs. the published maps, I'd say looking for it will -remain- as challenging as this and will continue to require nights as clear as tonight and better, of course the (unlikely) occurrence of less horizon-murk would call for "exceptional" skies. I say "remain challenging" since the maps indicate that it's not due to climb much higher but instead simply creep northward through the coming weeks. 

 - ERIC C. @Thurs. March 14th, 2013